Touch: The Journal of Healing



Editor’s Choice: The Voice of Katherine DiBella Seluja

During her childhood and adolescence, Katherine DiBella Seluja studied musical arts for 15 years with a focus on classical piano.  She attributes her sense of rhythm in poetry to her early musical training.  After her life took a turn, she entered healthcare to study nursing.  She received degrees from Yale and Columbia University which prepared her for a career as a Nurse Practitioner.  She currently practices in New Mexico.

Seluja draws from her clinical experience as a nurse to tell the stories of her patients, her colleagues, her family, and herself.  She acknowledges that a “rapid intimacy” develops when caring for the critically ill where more is revealed of a person’s private life than would normally occur outside of the healthcare setting.   Her experience with “rapid intimacy” is a driving force in her writing.

After working for many years in the clinical setting and several personal illnesses, Seluja “began to realize [her story] cupboard was getting pretty full and [she] needed to find a way to honor, respect, and release some of these stories.”  While preparing to perform a five minute monologue for caregivers, she “experienced the power of the written and spoken word in a very physical way” where she “became drawn to the notion of describing harsh life events in poetic form.”  Her poetry reveals many of the pivotal moments that occur over the course of days or weeks during an illness.  The culmination of those moments often leads to a downturn that ends in a loss of some kind, whether it is a loss of function, ability, cognitive capacity, or even life itself.

The five poems featured as this issue’s Editor’s Choice speak to two very different scenarios, yet they contain a common thread, that when illness and death are encountered by caregivers professionally they are affected profoundly and personally.  The first two poems, “Of calamine and honey” and “Telephone, 4 a.m.,” speak to Seluja’s relationship with her brother who suffers from schizophrenia.  As a nurse, Seluja is well aware of mental illness, but before this, she is still a family member, still a sister, and as such, she reveals how she experiences his illness outside the scope of her clinical practice.  The last three poems, “The Formula for Wholeness,” “You will find it in the stillness,” and “Prayer circle in the ICU,” concern Seluja’s professional career as a neonatal intensive care nurse and how caring for these fragile, new lives can tear at the fabric of one’s humanity.  The tenderness with which these poems are written reveals how nurses care for these little ones and more often than not, carry their stories in their hearts, well beyond the hospital walls.

I encourage you to learn more about Katherine DiBella Seluja by visiting her web site,  On the home page you will find, “Jim's Peace,” a beautiful tribute to a former patient, who, in his own way, helped to guide her writing.

It is with great pleasure that I present to you a voice of Touch: Katherine DiBella Seluja.

O.P.W. Fredericks, Editor

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Touch: The Journal of Healing

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Editor’s Choice