What’s going on with Pre-existing Poems?

Hi, folks! Long time no see.

It’s been almost a year since the first mad rush of Pre-existing poems happened. As you might remember, this site was founded in order to express opposition to the American Health Care Act which was introduced in Congress last spring. You can click here for some quick information about the bill. With everything that has happened in the United States politically since then, the message of affordable and equitable healthcare for all has gotten swallowed amidst so many other important issues. I’ve spent most of the past year writing on LGBT+ rights issues, for example. Since last summer, we’ve seen the rise of the #metoo and #timesup movement, as well as the astounding leadership of our nation’s schoolchildren on gun violence and school shootings. In their own ways, all of these major issues are also deeply related to healthcare, which is a part of why I’ve been planning on reinvigorating this site. However, I cannot do it alone.

First and foremost, joining me in this project will be Stephanie O’Connell. Stephanie is a writer based in Pennsylvania with an MA in English who studied with me during our undergraduate careers. We met up last month to discuss in person our visions for the potential of this site, and we realized there’s so much more we’d like to be able to do together toward the conversation of healthcare in the United States and in the world. We’ll both be accessible at preexistingpoems@gmail.com for any questions regarding the site, and all submissions going forward should be directed toward this account as well.

Secondly, I found last year that the burst format, wherein people submitted poems and I managed to get them posted quickly (usually within a day or two) provided for a fun and exciting environment, but that the energy quickly burnt out after about a month and a half of continuous submissions. As the healthcare situation left the news, it left peoples’ minds as an important topic of discussion. What we would like to do is to recapture that initial energy for short bursts of activity biannually. So, while we will be open to submissions year-round, we will publish them in rapid succession during the summer (June/July) and winter (January/February). At the end of each session, we’ll compile a master post with links to everything we posted, like a volume of a magazine.

Our publication guidelines are not changing much, but will grow a little to include more types of artistic expression than just poetry. Last year, we were able to publish an audio recording of a spoken word poem alongside the text of that poem, and I would like to be able to do more projects like that. I’d like to be able to accommodate visual art as well as the written (or spoke) word. The only major guideline is theme: medical conditions and healthcare.

The third thing needed to get Pre-existing Poems going again: you. We need your support and we need your submissions, and we need you to share this site with your friends.

Pre-existing Poems was never meant to be a standard literary journal, but more so a poetry collective of similar-minded artists speaking toward an oft-forgotten socio-political issue through their lived experiences. Over half of what we accepted last year dealt with mental health issues, and people have reached out to me to say that those poems helped them cope with their own mental health struggles. At its heart, Pre-existing Poems wants to be like an online consciousness raising related to healthcare issues. In order to keep being that, we’re going be pushing the format of the site closer to an online journal or magazine, but we’ll still be a place that’s not concerned about artistic skill or perfection in favor of writing and art that is honest and that engages with health issues. We don’t care if you’ve published twelve books of poems or if you’re twelve years old. This platform aims to be an inclusive and exciting place to showcase both our shared struggles and our shared hopes. If you have created something related to healthcare and you’d like to see it here, send it to us.

Thank you, and I can’t wait to read your work,

Maggie Felisberto


Every Step I Take

By Theresa Milstein

I’m a freelancer
To the stars
Running from
Job to job
On my knee—
Which endured three
Three childhood surgeries—
A time bomb
With each step I take—
tick, tick, tick …



Author’s Note: This poem is dedicated to my sister, Kathleen Brown. For years, she lived in fear of not only having time take unpaid time off work during recovery, but whether or not her insurance would pay for it. The Affordable Care Act changed her life. Not only did her premiums go down drastically, but she also was confident her condition would be covered. With her situation on the pre-existing list, my sister is living in fear again.


Theresa Milstein writes middle grade and YA, but poetry is her secret passion. Her vignette collection, TIME & CIRCUMSTANCE, was published by Vine Leaves Press in March, 2017. She lives near Boston Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a dog-like cat, and a cat-like dog. For her day job, she works as a teacher in a middle school, which gives her ample opportunity to observe teens and tweens in their natural habitat.




Are you a freelance worker who is looking for information about health insurance? Under the Affordable Care Act, the process is relatively simple and straightforward. You can check out these different advice guides on navigating the healthcare exchange here, here and here, or you can go straight to Healthcare.gov for as long as the marketplace lasts. If the AHCA passes into law, it will have disastrous effects on freelance workers. You can read more about this here and here.


Site Update!

Hello, friends and fam! Here’s the scoop with Pre-existing Poems!

I (Maggie) have been abroad for the past month, and will continue to be abroad for the next month. I haven’t always had consistent access to WiFi, and also as more and more outrageous news broke in the United States (stuff regarding Russia, stuff regarding LGBT rights violations, recently the horror of Philando Castile’s murderer being acquited), the focus on healthcare has gone by the wayside in the popular eye. I went from receiving two or three submissions a day to nothing at all. However, the danger of the AHCA has not gone away.

In the latest news, the Republican Senate’s version of the AHCA would allow for immense cuts to basically everything, but is different from what passed in Congress in some ways. Check out this Business Insider article for a breakdown of what’s in the Senate’s proposed legislation. For another take, head to The Atlantic, which also has a pretty thorough rundown.

If you’re a fan of this project, if you’ve contributed before and you’d like to again, or if you’re a newcomer, please consider submitting something. I’d love it if I could publish as aggressively as I did in our first couple of weeks, but I’ll be happy if I can get two to three new works up a week from here on out. And I love to hear from you, too!

Much of my time the past week has been spent trying to spread awareness about the tragic forest fires here in Portugal that began on Saturday night in Pedrógão Grande, which is not too far from where I am staying. Latest news is that the fires are finally under control, but in the meantime 64 people have died and over 250 have been injured. While none of my relatives nor I were injured, one of my cousins lost a close friend in the fire. This tragedy has been on the news constantly here in Portugal. Please keep us in your thoughts.


News Update

Hi, folks! I’ve been in the process of moving and getting ready to spend a couple of months doing research and visiting relatives in Portugal, so things have been kind of hectic and I haven’t gotten to fully sort through the submissions I have hanging in my email. However, I don’t want to go too long without posting anything, so here’s a news/features update on the American Health Care Act.

The Atlantic ran a good piece yesterday titled “How Kids Would Fare Under the American Health Care Act” that highlights the parts of the bill that would allow for states to cap funding specifically for children and pregnant women. The bill has the potential to thrash Medicaid, which would be devastating to children, particularly kids from low-income families or kids with special needs. I have an acquaintance whose son has neuroblastoma. His life shouldn’t be in jeopardy at all, but it definitely shouldn’t be in jeopardy because of insurance coverage.

Earlier today in New Orleans, a group of activists staged a “die-in” at Tulane Medical Center. Many of the protestors were aligned with the group Indivisible, and the funeral-themed rally was meant to convey the potential loss of coverage, which could result easily in loss of life, being threatened via the AHCA. Some of the protestors showed up dressed as the Grim Reaper or holding signs shaped like tombstones. A full news feature ran on www.bestofneworleans.com.

According to Healthcare Finance News, Senate Republicans are seriously reconsidering the American Health Care Act. This feature, which ran on May 17th, claims that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has said that he would not mind holding off the repeal of the ACA mandate until 2020, or indefinitely, and that several Republican Senators agree. The article also states that the Congressional Budget Office is set to release the expected costs and impacts of the AHCA on Monday, which would be the 22nd.

Please, if you like the idea of this site, keep sending me your writing. Keep sending me your gut-wrenching lines about life on the edge of a pre-existing condition. Keep sending me you heartwarming hopes for the future, too. And most importantly, keep standing up for each other in the face of a government that seems to care much more about the fiscal bottom line than about the people they are meant to serve.

Also, while it is unrelated to healthcare, I’d like to draw your attention to the global attacks against LGBT rights, particularly the situation in Texas and the situation in Chechnya right now, which I’ve written about on my personal blog here. (Then again, considering that some places are listing “transsexualism” as a pre-existing condition, LGBT rights definitely belong here too.)

Go forth and do good.