Constance Studer

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Constance Studer is a retired registered nurse and writer of poetry, creative nonfiction and short fiction. She earned a diploma from the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing, a BA in English Literature from Illinois College, Jacksonville, Illinois and a MA in English Literature/Creative Writing from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She worked many years in Intensive Care-Coronary Care, and as a hospital supervisor before she retired due to physical disability. She never retired from writing. She was born and raised in rural Ohio, and has made Colorado her adopted home since 1973.

Studer lived three years in the Netherlands, learned the Dutch language, and worked as a registered nurse in the Luthersche Deakonessen Inrichting in Amsterdam. She has published English translations of Dutch poetry in Poetry East, Visions-International, Blue Buildings, and Practices of the Wind. She has published three books: Prayer to a Purple God, Mellen Poetry Press, 1996, reissued in hard back in 2004; Body Language: First Of All Do No Harm, (creative nonfiction) Purdue University Press, 2009; and Queen of the Sugarhouse, June, 2021.

Studer's poetry has appeared in High Plains Literary Review, Bloomsbury Review, Carquinez Poetry Review, Eclipse, the Minnesota Review, We Speak For Peace, (anthology) Knowledge, Ideas and Trends (KIT), Sing Heavenly Muse!, Zone 3, Birmingham Poetry Review, Kaleidoscope: International Magazine of Literature, Fine Arts and Disability, Prairie Smoke: The Pueblo Poetry Project 1979-1989, (anthology), University of Southern Colorado Press, The Eleventh Muse, Calapooya Collage, The Midnight Lamp, Cream City Review, Newsletter Inago, Earth's Daughters, Mediphors: A Literary Journal for Health Professionals, Embers, The Devil's Millhopper, The Connecticut Writer, The Sun, The Poetry of Nursing, (anthology) Kent State University Press, and Wingbone: Poetry From Colorado, (anthology), Sudden Jungle Press, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice, by the Eleventh Muse and Embers.

Studer's essays have appeared in South Dakota Review, SLAB: Sound and Literary Art Book, The Poetry of Nursing (anthology) Kent State University Press, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, The Mochila Review, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, American Journal of Nursing, and Kaleidoscope: International Magazine of Literature, Fine Arts and Disability.

Studer's short stories have appeared in Phoenix, Crucible, Georgia State University Review, Thin Air Magazine, Intensive Care: More Poetry and Prose by Nurses, (anthology) University of Iowa Press, Westview: A Journal of Western Oklahoma, and Ascent.

Constance Studer has enjoyed writer's residencies at Ucross, Hedgebrook and the Rocky Mountain Women's Institute, Denver. She has received grants from the Neodata Foundation, the Arts and Humanities Assembly of Boulder and the Katherine Sharp Rachlis Memorial Grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, New York.



BY Constance Studer • POSTED ON June 1, 2021

Studer, the author ofBody Language: First of All Do No Harm(2009), explores life in medical institutions from varied perspectives in nine stories.

The collection opens with “Mercy,” about an intensive care nurse who administers the wrong drug to a patient; the narrative digs beneath the everyday turmoil of life on the ward to examine the vulnerability of medical staff and how they deal with the trauma of their work in their personal lives. The following story, “Shelter,” introduces Benjamin Tyler, a destitute Desert Storm veteran who’s being treated for a debilitating illness following his tour of duty, and “The Isolation Room” is about a writer who’s committed to a mental institution after cutting her wrist. “Special Needs” follows Maria, a waitress whose brother, who has muscular dystrophy, is institutionalized; when she becomes pregnant, she wonders if she carries the gene that caused her sibling’s disease. The title story closes the collection with a poignant tale of a daughter nursing her mother through chemotherapy following a mastectomy. In these stories, Studer, a retired nurse, offers a dazzling and nuanced portrait of the medical world. She’s unafraid to depict the horrific but also acutely sensitive to the complexity of the psychology at play in this challenging environment. Her affecting prose allows readers to experience hospital life through the perspectives of patients as well as medical staff. On occasion, the characters’ observations can be wistfully poetic, as in “Mercy”: “I’ve seen the signs of imminent death: a blurring of the body’s boundaries, a gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle fusion with surrounding elements, a sigh into oblivion.” In other instances, the author offers up brutally vivid tableaux, as in “Shift”: “The boy’s heart floats in a pool of blood like a drowned kitten. The doctor’s hands continue to work inside the chest.” Studer successfully captures a spectrum of emotion in these tales, including her characters’ matter-of-fact approach to death: “It’s raining outside. The toddler is very dead.”

A brilliant, if harrowing, set of tales featuring sharp prose.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63-752922-5

Page count: 168pp

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

Awards, Press & Interests


QUEEN OF THE SUGARHOUSE: Named to <i>Kirkus Reviews'</i> Best Books, 2021


Body Language: First Of All Do No Harm

Constance Studer uses her family's story to illustrate larger ethical dilemmas in which modern medical professionals find themselves. The history of why prefrontal lobotomies were performed on patients is explored, and why only a few physicians raised dissenting voices to this mutilating surgery. Both the author and her father were injured by medical treatments that were intended to help. Her father's lobotomy caused irreversible brain damage. Connie's vaccine-related illness caused systemic lupus. She cites an article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., which investigates a possible government cover-up of a mercury/autism scandal. Thimerosal, the ethylmercury preservative used in vaccine preparation, has been suggested as a cause of the epidemic of autism, and other neurological disorders among children. In 2007, one child out of 150 suffered from autism, or other neurological-cognitive disabilities. This book is a plea to the medical-pharmaceutical-government complex to ban the use of thimerosal in the production of vaccines, and to reevaluate the number of vaccines administered to infants and children. Body Language is a testament to survival, the healing power of nature. Studer built a home by the shores of Grand Lake. Watching the river fill up the lake year after year renewed her faith in the sense of continuity and progression. Grand Lake, with its bird calls and bombastic waves, was a magic marriage between the visible and invisible, a landscape that refreshed the eye, cleansed the heart, and recharged the spirit. Sometimes the body sings hymns, sometimes the blues, but always the body hums along. Healing is a process, a journey toward balance, connectedness, meaning and wholeness, rather than on outcome.
ISBN: 978-1-55753-516-0

Prayer To A Purple God

Prayer To A Purple God, Mellen Poetry Press, 1996, hardback 2004) is a collection of 24 poems dealing with health, nursing, spirituality and survival. Reviews: "These are sharp-edged dark poems that speak a dangerous truth about the health of humans in these hard times of the earth. They reflect the changed landscape, the changed life of the body of woman, the body of God, the body of this land with its newly hazardous terrain. Yet there is light here, water, air, prairie grasses and heart. These are poems to pay attention to, about what it means when health slips like a ring from earth's finger." Linda Hogan, author of Solar Storms, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World, and The Book of Medicines. "Each poem in Prayer To A Purple God resonates in primal intensity and regard. Each poem focuses on a health emergency, the body's vulnerability, the acts of doctors and nurses, and the vivid inner perceptions of those involved. Simultaneously, astonishingly all are painted in terms of larger contexts and presences of earth. In the critical care unit one patient is half woman and half bird, one crawls across the glass in an aquarium like a snail, one has a torch in his skull, one has a physician illuminate 'her arteries and shelves of bone in a ruby gloom, one is held/ within white-curved wings.' Though grounded in the profound struggles and emotions of the hospital, many of these poems are reminiscent of Neruda's odes in how they focus and yet open through metaphor and association. This is one powerful, compassionate, and unique book of poems." James Grabill, author of Poem Rising Out of the Earth, Oregon Book Award for Poetry, 1995.
ISBN: 0-7734-3549-2