“The Plague Doctor” by James Morehead Book Club Discussion Guide

The Plague Doctor” by James Morehead (Poet Laureate – Dublin, CA) is a mesmerizing collection of eerie, image-rich poems that explore the fleeting nature of existence and friendship, inspired by the world of art and artists.

From James Morehead: “As a special offer to book clubs, I’m offering a discounted book club price for The Plague Doctor and will meet with the book club over video to answer questions and discuss the book.” Contact James at dublinpoetlaureate@gmail.com.

“The Plague Doctor” Book Club Discussion Guide

  • Discuss how the themes of mortality and time manifest throughout the poems in “The Plague Doctor” and how they connect to your experiences and emotions.
  • Which poem(s) resonated with you the most and why? What specific images or lines stood out to you?
  • How does the author use poetic devices, such as metaphor, allusion, and personification, to convey the themes and emotions of his poems? Can you identify any examples of these devices in the collection?
  • In the poem “The moment before totality (trio for Earth, Sun, and Moon),” the celestial bodies engage in a poetic dialogue. How does this personification contribute to the poem’s themes and impact?
  • Discuss the role of identity and self-discovery in the collection, particularly in poems like “That time I was left for dead downstage” and “When you perform my autopsy, be prepared.”
  • How do the poems in this collection evoke a sense of place? Can you identify specific poems where the setting plays a significant role in conveying the poem’s themes or emotions?
  • Examine the use of music and performance in poems like “Memento Mori Evermore” and “She sings in cursive on the Fillmore stage.” How do these elements contribute to the overall themes and messages of the collection?
  • In “Twilight in the Sculpture Forest,” the author takes the reader on a journey through a mystical forest filled with statues. How does the imagery in this poem affect your understanding of the themes and emotions being conveyed?
  • How do the poems in this collection address the concept of memory, both personal and collective? Consider poems such as “I hold the last sheet of parchment paper” and “That moment by a pinball machine.”
  • The poems “The tock beneath my scalp” and “How I found you when the pareidolia fled” explore a wide range of emotions and experiences. How does the author’s use of language and poetic form contribute to the emotional impact of the collection?

Advance Praise for “The Plague Doctor”

“James Morehead’s poetry pulses with vibrant detail. Whether it’s Jimmy Page strumming a mandolin or ruminations of a sourdough starter, Morehead’s speaker is equally intent on listening. In this new collection, this poet has created a vivid document that captures what it means to be perpetually inspired by the world in all its facets.”

Tina Cane, Poet Laureate of Rhode Island and author of Body of Work and Year of the Murder Hornet 

“The literary community has been waiting for a collection like this, which moves beyond simple ekphrasis, creating poetry that illuminates art as well as the reader’s understanding of what it means to be human.”

Kristina Marie Darling, Editor in Chief, Tupelo Press & Tupelo Quarterly 

“The poems ricochet off the visual images in unexpected ways, so that this book – where word and image converge – reminds me of a pinball machine. As in that song by The Who, Morehead is our ‘pinball wizard.’ Whether writing free verse, haikus, or ballad-like rhymes, he ‘sure plays a mean pinball.’ Morehead creates his own boisterous ‘cacophony of bells / that flash in reds, greens, and golds.’”

Donald Platt, author of Swansdown

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