Dr. Irène Mathieu


Irene Mathieu two

As a writer and physician I am curious about how experience is embodied and transmitted across generations. My debut poetry collection orogeny draws on both science and invented mythology to diagnose the fractures of our world, and is a testament to my belief that collective healing is interdisciplinary. My most recent book, Grand Marronage, is a multigenerational lyric that explores the intersections of performance, privilege, and oppression in the lives of New Orleans Creole women.

I have always been interested in the stories that don’t make it into dominant narratives, and the therapeutic potential of listening to and telling these stories. In both my careers I champion diverse methodologies of storytelling that can be used subversively – from community-based qualitative research to persona poems. How might the ways in which we tell our (hi)stories help us in the pursuit of a more just and peaceful world? How might we employ language to achieve inclusive social narratives? Core themes in my work include ecopoetics, feminism, racialization/racism, intersections of privilege and oppression, silence(s), and the ethics of advocacy in both writing and medicine.

It’s apt that one of the central images of orogeny is that of Pangaea because Irène Mathieu broke me, over & over & over & infinite. Orogeny takes its reader across many different histories–of family, of continents, of violences, of sciences, of dirts, of fears, of soils, of loves–and every one is bigger than the last. It asks its reader, “what do I deserve?” and while the reader stares at it in amazement it answers “everything inside the moon.” In an existence as fractured as this one, orogeny is not just the myth that we need; it’s the then (& now & future) that we deserve. — Mark Cugini, author of I’m Just Happy to Be Here, managing books editor, Big Lucks Books

Irène Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and public health researcher who has lived and worked in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru, and elsewhere. She is the author of three books — Grand Marronage (forthcoming from Switchback Books in 2019), which was selected as Editor’s Choice for the Gatewood Prize; orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), which won the Bob Kaufman Book Prize; and chapbook the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press & studio, 2014). She has won Yemassee Journal’s Poetry Prize, received Honorable Mention and Editor’s Choice awards in the Sandy Crimmins National Poetry contest, and was runner-up for the Cave Canem/Northwestern Book Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in NarrativeBoston ReviewThe Caribbean WriterSouthern Humanities ReviewLos Angeles ReviewCallalooNew Delta ReviewYemasseeTriQuarterlyFoundry, and elsewhere. Irène has received fellowships from the Fulbright Program and the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. She serves as an editor for Muzzle Magazine and for the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s humanities section.

Irène is interested in medical humanities, social determinants of health, trauma-informed care, global public health, and medical education. She holds a BA in International Relations from the College of William & Mary and a MD from Vanderbilt University. For more information, please visit her website: irenemathieu.com

More titles by Irène Mathieu


July 4th

the holiday is on the street:
a hot strip of chicken
split on the sidewalk,
sideways spit, and
the crush of
emptied soda cups.

more than a hundred
degrees today in D.C.,
the river churning
black like ash,
the fire hydrants’
projectile vomit,
the cigarettes making
air smell salty.

one day we might die
in a flood of grease,
every burger joint bursting
a deluge of hot fat,
this country drowning,
a boiling mess of
unnatural oil.