Indo-American cardiologist gets to the heart of verse

From the book by Dr Antonio Gomes.

Doctors and patients. By Vamona “Ganesha” Navelcar.

Dr. J. Anthony Gomes takes the reader on a voyage in verse that traverses the globe – from Goa (India) to Staten Island (NY), the Algarve in Portugal, Rio in Brazil,  Asturias in Spain, Caracas in Venezuela, and Yagamata in Japan. Gomes, who writes under the nome de plume of Antonio Gomes, is readying for the US-release of his second collection of poetry called ‘Mirrored Reflections‘.

Here, his verse connects the reader with the Orinoco (one of the longest rivers of South America), the Inca site of Machu Picchu, Bahia in Brazil, street scenes in NYC, and the varied experiences of an expert dealing with the heart.

Back home, his youthful memories take us to dusk in Loutolim village, Goa; the legend of an attempted robbery at Aldona village; the streets of Bombay; and the nostalgia that many a Goan migrant feels for home.

Detailed notes at the end of the collection give a hint for the reader to comprehend the universal dimension of a specialist.

Grace Schulman, poet and distinguished professor of English, says the second poetry volume of the cardiologist-who-writes “captures the landscape and rhythms of his native Goa, his travels, and his patients.”

“In these sixty poems, physician-poet Antonio Gomes gathers up five decades of life experiences spaced around the world. He is at his most eloquent when he speaks of love,” comments the prominent Goan expat author Victor Rangel-Ribeiro.

“Gomes invites the reader to an imaginative journey in finely crafted verse that traverses numerous stages of life, contrasting moods, diverse continents, and singular moments in personal history,” adds the Goa-based playwright Dr. Isabel Santa Rita Vas.

Gomes studied in Portuguese (at the Lyceum in Goa) and English (in Bombay and Goa).  After completing medical school, he migrated to the US, where he specialized in Cardiology and subsequently (early 1970s) worked as a research associate in Dr.  Anthony N. Damato’s Laboratory at the US Public Health Service Hospital in Staten Island, NY, which was the birthplace of Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology.

Gomes established the first Electrophysiology Laboratory and Section combined with the Department of Electrocardiography at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC, 30 years ago, where he currently holds the position of Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Directorship of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Consultative Services, and Senior Consultancy.

He has been consistently listed for over a decade in the Best Doctors in New York (New York Magazine), the Best Doctors in America, and featured in Indians in NY and India Abroad.  He has authored more than 180 original scientific publications, more than 10 chapters in national and international textbooks of Cardiology, and a textbook entitled Signal Averaged Electrocardiography published in 1993 by Kluwer Academic Press. He has also published fiction and poetry.

His novel ‘The Sting of Peppercorns’ (2010) was recently appreciated by David Jackson, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the Yale University, after a recent conference on ‘Goa: A Postcolonial Society Between Cultures’ at Yale. Prof. Jackson called Gomes “a new novelist… who’s written a very interesting novel…  set in 1961 when Portuguese rule in Goa ended and Goa was incorporated into India.  His novel is about that moment.”

Gomes’ other interests include music — guitar, singing and attending classical concerts and opera — and he is an “avid gardener and voracious reader”.

Says he: “[Cardiology and poetry] probably appeal to different areas of the brain, but are both creative in their own way; however, there is substantial humanity and artistry in the practice of medicine, and here the two intersect. Indeed, although uncommon, it is not unusual to find musicians and other art forms in the medical profession.”

Gomes also anticipates “a rather strong audience” in Goa and among the Goan diaspora for his work in verse “because of some striking Goan themes and the sketches by a great Goan artist of universal depth, Vamona Navelcar (Ganesh).” He argues that the Goan, because of his Indo-Portuguese culture, has considerable global underpinnings as well.

“I also see a potential for a reasonable non-medical and medical audience too, particularly since it has poems related to diverse countries and many cardiovascular themes. However, realistically, and unfortunately, poetry has a small and selective audience in the modern world compared to the world of bygone centuries,” Gomes adds.

His earlier book of poetry, ‘Visions from Grymes Hill’, was entirely different from this collection but was also well received by those who read it. “It was much more personal, dealing with poems of loss since it was written after the death of my wife,” says Gomes. “However, that collection also had a universal vision in an epic poem, entitled the Poets Den, where the poet encounters dead poets of different nationalities from Tagore to Rilke to Neruda to Camões, and the poet relates the social and political dilemmas of the times and seeks their wisdom,” according to Gomes.

In the style of writing, ‘Visions from Grymes Hill’ is also quite different from ‘Mirrored Reflections’. The latter has a more modernistic style and an economy of words.

He says he first attempted verse while at Dhempé College in Panjim, Goa. “At that time my verse was shared with my colleague and life-long friend V.M (Nitant) Kenkre, who also wrote poetry, but surprisingly, neither of us ended up in the humanities but rather in science. He became a prominent theoretical physicist at the University of New Mexico, and I a clinician-scientist,” says Gomes.

Once he entered medical school, and subsequently during his years of specialization in the USA, time constraints put a stop on his interests in poetry and literature.  “Poetry came back to me rather strongly about a year after the death of my wife, Marina Flores. Her demise was a transformational event in my life,” says Gomes.

“There was a famous American poet, Williams Carlos Williams, who was a doctor, but a general practitioner. I don’t know of any cardiac electrophysiologist writing poetry.  Indeed, others have found this to be an unusual combination,” he adds.

Gomes believes his “inclination towards poetry” might have something to do with inherited poetic genes from grand-uncle, Fermino Jose Gomes, of Loutolim, also a writer and poet, although he’s not aware of any of his publications.

The 160-page book (ISBN 978-93-80739-64-9) is published by Goa,1556 — an alternative publishing venture that is attempting to “bring more insightful and relevant Goa-related books into the market.” The work was partly supported by the Fundacão Oriente. It is available in Goa and the US on, as of late September 2013.

About fredericknoronha

Alt.Publishing. Journalism. Books. Cyberspace. Networking.

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