Welcome to The Pen Bleeds where poetry is more than rhyme, more than reason, more than words flowing with rhythm; it’s a combination of jagged thoughts, feelings, actions, and a unique language opening minds to see the world from a different perspective.
This month’s feature is an amazing woman! It is a great honor featuring Dr. Zoë A. Lewis a writer who’s passionate words have the ability to melt the core of the coldest hearts. Her inspiration for penning Poetic Penumbra were African, Asian, and Indo-European muses and goddesses known to incite creativity in poets. In addition to that, Dr. Lewis has racked up several degrees and accomplishments, proving, through resilience and perseverance women can accomplish anything. But don’t be intimidated shes quite humble. We posed seven questions to better familiarize our readers about her influential role models and passion for uplifting women.
Q&A with Dr. Zoë A. Lewis
Seven: What is your definition of a strong woman?
Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: ‘Beautiful woman fights’. My graffiti girl in a favela of Rio De Janeiro says it all. A strong woman was a young girl that learned how to fight for herself and her beliefs. All women need to fight prejudice, free their minds and then keep themselves free from being enslaved by what others around her believe a woman should be, in any society. A young woman creates her unique sense of ‘self worth’. Her self-confidence and inner beauty grace the world because she is strong enough to be gentle; she can give her love freely without fear.
Seven: Who are your heroines and how have they impacted your life?
Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: How about my ‘favorite’ heroines because there are too many!
Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, legends of the modern dance movement. I studied dance for years and dreamed once to be a professional dancer. These women were emblematic of freedom and breaking traditions in art, and dance like all things, becomes conventional once its established. They were leaders in their day because they found a way to capture our emotions with dance movements that were liberated from tradition. Lead, don’t follow was what I captured.
Rosa Parks, Human rights activist. I grew up during a time of protests and civil unrest – the Vietnam War was on TV every night, and race riots were happening too. Those older than me were protesting in the streets, often with violence. This gentle woman’s nonviolent defiance showed me everyone could challenge the system when it was wrong. I was 13 when I rode on one of those first desegregated school buses and went to an integrated high school outside of Philadelphia. Parks’ efforts were relevant to my worldview, teaching me stand up and be heard.
Emilie du Châtelet, French mathematician and physicist from 1700’s. I didn’t have one female professor in a hard science or mathematics in my undergraduate courses or in medical school in Italy. I wanted a mentor that was also hot! This lady was not only brilliant, (she corrected a theory of Newton on kinetic energy), she convinced men to accept her into their intellectual circle when virtually women had none such freedoms. Voltaire, one of her many lovers, declared in a letter to his friend King Frederick II of Prussia that du Châtelet was “a great man whose only fault was being a woman.” I reckoned like her, it was totally awesome to be smart and sexy and enjoy my woman’s body and mind, no need to be just one of the boys.
Sophia Loren – I lived in Rome, Italy for over ten years, Italian is my language of love. Sophia Loren’s characters in her films inspired me when I was an ingénue in my twenties to focus on what counts as I became a woman. I wanted to be like her as a mother, lover, wife, friend, comedian, confidant, spaghetti-cooking temptress. But of course, for me, I wanted to be all of them at once – an Italian multiple personality sex symbol – and a serious medical student. It was really fun trying.
Seven: What type of literature, influences, or experiences drives you to create written word?
Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: I was plastered in books most of my life because books grew my imagination and grew my knowledge. I started to write for others by the time I was in high school, jamming out essays on the floor of the girls bathroom for kids who hadn’t done their assignments, after I’d bartered for something. I simply loved to read and write using my imagination. The force behind writing my Alzheimer’s books came after I was incredibly moved by the loss of an individual with dementia. I wanted to help caregivers, so shared what I knew. That project was a labor of love and compassion. Crazy abandoned love makes us all poets under its influence, whether we write or not – in love, we are all poets.
Seven: Can you share with our readers a time where you called upon your inner strength to encourage and inspire someone?
Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: When I go to work, each day I start out, I call upon myself to give up wisdom, skills, and bend my ego towards the needs of my patient. I try to encourage every one of them towards health. Often I take care of drug addicts, shackled criminals, homeless folks, people who are sick that break others around them and break themselves. I look past whoever they are, whatever they have done and try to be present and in the presence of the individual that is in front of me. I try to inspire them with the reality that love does exist, caring people do exist. I teach that self love starts each of us on the path to our own healing.
Seven: You channeled numerous female goddesses for inspiration to write Poetic Penumbra. What methods or rituals do you use to tap into your creative goddess?
Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: I don’t have any rituals but I practice yoga and work on getting myself still and open to feel beyond what I can see. Of course making love, while being in love, is the greatest way to tap into my creative space, and the poets through time know this. The poetry collection was unusual because I was semiconscious, half asleep when I wrote it. Around 4 am I kept waking up with these words in my head, I just had to write them down. Seemed to me at the time , the energy of muses, goddesses in spirit were present guiding my imaginative experiences. Love and the art of lovemaking, tapping into ones sensuality, creativity, never seemed more enchanted. I surrendered and let the feelings pour in and was suddenly able to write without thinking. I blossomed like a big fat peony and exploded pollen poetry.
Seven: What in your life has bought you or given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment?
Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: Helping patients to die peacefully. I did hospice work for many years and of course still do when the need arises. To know you helped someone by easing their pain, any kind of pain, and then guide them and their loved ones, as far as any of us can offer guidance up to the moment we ‘cross over’- a nice euphemism for dying – is just beyond words. To be filled with compassion and see a final peace and love overcome them, see it in their eyes, that is the greatest gift I’ve been given.
Seven: Women’s roles in the community have drastically transitioned over the past forty years. How have these changes affected you? How can we improve upon those changes to create a better society?
Dr. Zoë A. Lewis: I am fortunate to be standing on the shoulders of giants that came before me. My mother did not have the opportunities that I did, her generation and her mother’s before her were removing obstacles for women. I am blessed to be exquisitely, unapologetically, unequivocally my own person, able to determine my own path. But we have a lot of work to do if women are still kept from a basic education, sold like animals into slavery, and female infanticide prevents her born life in many parts of the world still today. These are current horrors. We can be the giants for the next generation and mentor other girls to do the same: break rules, break traditions, become self-aware and free their minds from anyone who dictates what a girl or woman should be. We need to teach by example, be what you want to be and fight for it.
Zoë Ann Lewis, MD, FACP is a nationally recognized Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine physician, speaker, published author, travel writer, photographer, poet, radio show host and healthcare education activist.
She has an undergraduate degree in Biology with departmental honors from Temple University in Philadelphia. She got her medical degree, summa cum laude, from the Università degli Studi di Roma -La Sapienza Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia. Her graduate doctoral thesis research on melanoma was published in 1993, Oncology. She completed her medicine residency at the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital. She won a post graduate scholarship for research on parasites at the Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand 1994. She was elected to the honorary society of American College of Physicians as a Fellow, FACP. She has other numerous awards and medical publications.
She’s an acclaimed speaker on hospice issues, and received national recognition from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for her leadership role in the development of new programs for hospice care and end stage dementia patients. She produces and hosts the 30 minute radio program, ‘Hope Through Knowledge Radio for Caregivers’ on blog talk radio, guests from the NHPCO, AARP, national aging and elder care organizations, and award winning authors. She has presented at the National Council on Aging, American Society on Aging and National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization as a faculty speaker.
She is the author of three books.: “I hope they know….The Essential Handbook of Alzheimer’s Disease and Care, ” a listed resource with the National Alzheimer’s Association, and the Spanish translation, “La Guía Holística para la Enfermedad de Alzheimer”, and Poetic Penumbra.
Her websites, zoealewis.com and hopethroughknowledge.org, are sites dedicated to “Hope Through Knowledge,” promoting physician and community education on Alzheimer’s disease and end-of-life care.
Dr. Zoë has 16 years of experience as an internist and hospitalist. She was the Corporate Medical Doctor for Beacon Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc.,(the largest hospice in New England and she is one of the first certified HPM specialists in the country.)
She held academic positions as Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard School of Medicine, Tufts University Medical School, and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Currently she holds three state licenses: Massachusetts, Florida and Pennsylvania and is an independent contractor hospitalist physician and hospice consultant. When not working, she lives in Miami Beach and travels, and produces and hosts her radio shows. She’s been to 45 countries and now writes and photographs her travel experiences for the internet magazine, Travel Curious Often.
For more information on Dr. Zoë A. Lewis please visit:
Blog Talk Radio: blogtalkradio.com/hopethroughknowledge
1. Poetic Penumbra
2. I Hope They Know- The Essential Handbook of Alzheimer’s Disease and Care
A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably different. ~ Melinda Gates
Welcome to our women’s issue! Seven is celebrating inspirational women across the globe who contributes positively to society in some way, shape, or form. Who are your female role models? What is your definition of a strong woman?
Women represent a vast majority of the world’s population, and yet are the most underserved, impoverished, and uneducated in comparison to men. Partly, this is because of gender inequality and poverty which marginalizes women as a whole. But when women armored with the essential tools to compete in a male driven society, where odds are stacked against them before conception, they blossom.
This month The Pen Bleeds features the artistic stylings of Dr. Zoe A. Lewis, Shashi Moore, Jill Scott and Maya Angelou, all positive women who inspire others to use their voice and be comfortable in the skin they’re in. See how their verses flow below, and be inspired to pen a piece of your own!
Why fear confrontation,
if once for love we died?
We ably massacred our enemies,
blood mingled side by side.
No strangers to our glorious past,
no shadows left to fear.
Steady onward towards our future,
rebirth through love is near.
We’ve found each other once again,
but still I’d like to know,
if love finds life eternal each birth,
why souls are want to go?
Essence of a woman
Heavenly beauty of divine handiwork
Preordained with chic elegance
Delicate mingling of strength and poise
Adorned with virtues of inestimable value
Covert, hidden display of aptitudes
Placed on earth to stand beside her
Cherished and charmed
No aorta of abuse should befall
The creation of God
Tree Like She (for Grandmothers Everywhere)
How many times have you heard the infant cry?
How many leaves have you lost to fall?
How many secrets held?
How often, the dead weight of castrated boys on your arm?
How many younglings lost in the name of lesson?
How many generations?
Fire from fire
Storm from storm have you stood with your feet clinging
And your bones crying for lie down?
How many poets rest their backs against your frame?
Tree How many danced when the wind blew
Or the water tumbled
Or the sun looked and the snow painted?
How many names carved in your heart?
How many lovers rock sweet and right under your blessed shade?
How many moons?
How many knives?
How many destinies have you seen get wet?
And yet you are constant
painstakingly healing and swelling from your greater providence
You have seen the earth green and fresh
Turn to synthetic
Yet you grow
Through the concrete
Through rapid obliviousness
Through hared swept in neat piles
I watch you sway in the October breeze
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
© 2013 Seven Magazine