Claire Collison is artist in residence at the Women's Art Library, Goldsmith's College, London. Claire’s practice as both writer and artist is concerned with place, identity, and the body - most recently designing the participatory walk, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. She teaches in a broad range of settings, currently at the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury, and at Sir John Soane's Museum, and was the first Max Reinhardt Literacy fellow, at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge. A MacDowell fellow, Claire has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Flambard Prize, and came second in the inaugural Resurgence Prize for eco poetry. Her first novel Treading Water was a Dundee Book Prize finalist. Her poetry is published in Templar Anthology, Butcher’s Dog, South Bank,Island Review, The Compass, and in Paper Swan's Best of British. See more at writingbloomsbury.wordpress.com
About how she wrote The Ladies’ Pond she said: “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I became acutely aware of the invisibility of other women who had chosen not to have reconstructive surgery. This invisibility not only signalled the pressure I was under to conform, it also meant I had no tangible evidence of women survivors.
She added: "The Ladies' Pond is both an institution and a secret - a natural oasis, hidden away on Hampstead Heath in London, where women swim year round. The chance encounter with an old woman that I describe in the poem really happened, thirty years ago, but it was only on my birthday, days before my own surgery, that I remembered her. I sometimes wonder now if she was a ghost from my future, come to reassure me all would be well.”
Rosie Jackson lives near Frome, Somerset and is a Hawthornden fellow, 2017. She’s taught at the Universities of East Anglia, Nottingham Trent, West of England, Skyros Writers’ Lab and Cortijo Romero. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, won various competitions and been made into a copper sculpture by Andrew Whittle in the grounds of a mental health unit, Dorchester. What the Ground Holds (Poetry Salzburg, 2014) was followed by The Light Box (Cultured Llama, 2016). Her prose books include Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, The Eye of the Buddha, Frieda Lawrence, Mothers Who Leave and a memoir, The Glass Mother (Unthank, 2016). www.rosiejackson.org.uk
About A Ward Sister Remembers the Spencers she said: “I started writing poems
about the British artists Stanley and Hilda Spencer when I was working on my
collection of poems The Light Box. I
have a passionate belief in the power of the creative arts to heal or alleviate
mental distress – I’ve worked with art and writing in mental health care – and
when I reflected on Hilda’s breakdown during the second world war, I felt that
her art work probably helped in her recovery. When I researched treatment at
that time, I discovered ECT had just begun, and I chose to present the story
through a nurse who might have seen it administered to later patients.”
Alisha Kaplan is a poet from Toronto. She holds an MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was a Rona Jaffe Fellow, and a BA from Barnard College, where she received a Lenore Marshall Barnard Poetry Prize. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fence, DIAGRAM, Powder Keg, The Chicago Tribune, Carousel, and elsewhere. The daughter of a printmaker and a psychiatrist, Alisha is very interested in the convergence of art and medicine, in particular the healing possibilities of poetry.
About Coming Off Eight Years of Escitalopram she said It was only after going off nearly a decade of antidepressant medication that I realized the extent of its side effects. Most significantly, it had unmoored me from my sense of self. I wrote this poem after an epiphanic moment in which both my libido and my identity returned, and I suddenly remembered who I was. I wept, overcome with relief and deep sadness at these years of my life that had been so far from full.
Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her first collection, Basic Nest Architecture, was published by Seren in February 2017. Her debut poetry pamphlet bone song (Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award in 2009, and her second poetry pamphlet Shadow Dispatches (Seren, 2013) won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize in 2012. An extract from Basic Nest Architecture was awarded New Writing North's Andrew Waterhouse Prize in 2014 for ‘reflect[ing] a strong sense of place or the natural environment’.
this Island she said: “I wrote ‘On this island’ to try and unpack a dream
I had when I was struggling with the symptoms of then-undiagnosed conditions.
In the dream I was inhabiting someone else’s life and body and illness, which I
knew more about in some ways than my own. My sleeping body's sensations worked
their way into the dream and the dream seemed to know more about them and what
they meant than I - or anyone else around me - did.”
Janice Caroline Booth said: "I am an Acupuncturist and a lecturer in Chinese Medicine. This is a source of much reflection for me as a writer. Working at the interface between patient and practitioner, there is the possibility of reaching out to a more nuanced understanding of well-being, which can bring so many insights. The longest journey is in, as Doris Lessing once said. I have had a number of successes in UK poetry competitions and my work has featured in anthologies and publications. I relish the surprise that can occur in the process of writing a poem; and how poetry can give sustenance to the everyday."
About what inspired her to write The Art of Dying she said: "I was startled at the juxtaposition of a series of events
which happened around me: first there
was my husband’s collapse in Nuremberg (and his subsequent recovery); then just
a few days later, in a gallery in Prague, whilst looking at the painting I
refer to in the poem, (Mourning
over the Dead Christ), I found myself superimposing the image of my
husband lying on the underground platform. It was one and the same thing - the
proximity of death in life. I stared at it for ages. This was the starting point for the poem Then the many references to blue – the lapis lazuli, the
surpar stone, the annual Blaue Nacht in
Nuremberg (as indeed it was, the
night we were there); these all
seemed to fall into line too, in significant ways.”
Hannah Copley, 28, is a Teaching Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Leeds, where she specialises in poetry. Alongside her University teaching, Hannah runs creative writing workshops for students and the public. She has also worked as an Editorial Assistant at Stand International Quarterly and was the Editor of Poetry and Audience. Her poems have been published widely and are featured in a number of published and forthcoming anthologies. In 2015 she was a highly commended poet in the Faber New Poets scheme. She is currently working on her first full collection.
She said: “Fixation began after a trip to the Wellcome Trust in London, and a walk around an exhibition on the body. One section of the exhibit discussed the process of an autopsy, and I was fascinated both by the technical language used and the care given to each piece of the deceased person. I particularly enjoyed how the coroner described the brain, and this led me to go home and begin to research the topic.”
She added: “On admittance to the Glasgow Hospital for Fallen Women in 1933, where there are no Mothers came about partly in response to the imminent arrival of my first child, and my subsequent consideration of the different experiences of pregnancy, labour, and new motherhood that women face and have faced, now and historically. The particular hospital that the poem refers to is the one that my own grandmother was born at, and I wanted to write about the gulf between my version of new motherhood and that of her birth mother.”
Rob Evans is an Aerospace Consultant Engineer. He is a British national who has spent over half his life working all over the world. When not actually flying, he mostly does the math to prove that he can. When doing neither of these things he writes and performs poetry to hushed and not-so-hushed audiences. He is a one-time winner of the United Kingdom All-Comers Poetry Slam Championship but has nevertheless regained some respectability. He has published one collection, Snake’s Kin.
He said: “The poem CT Scan arose from the personal
experience of being diagnosed and treated for a kidney stone. The competition judges were spared the
submission of two companion pieces, Lithotripsy
and Flexible Cystoscopy which are
slightly less poetic and significantly less polite.”
Elsa Fischer hails from the Netherlands. She obtained an MA in art history and jobbed on three continents before settling in Switzerland, selling English books. She now lives in the world’s most amazing retirement home, teaching German to Afghan refugees and English to the Turks. Always a lover of poetry, she started writing seriously some ten years ago, hosting an expats’ poetry workshop. Her poems have been published in magazines and anthologies. A pamphlet “Palmistry in Karachi” will be published by Templar Poetry in September 2017.
About Covering your Breasts she said that Dutch children get taught about Rembrandt at a young age. Also, she has always been fascinated by the workings of the human body. Donating her body to science seemed a natural step to take, raising some interesting issues!
Nicola Healey studied English Literature at the University of St Andrews. Her book, Dorothy Wordsworth and Hartley Coleridge: The Poetics of Relationship, a development of her doctoral thesis, was published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2012. She was commended in the Resurgence Poetry Prize 2015 and her poems have appeared in The Poetry Review and The Dark Horse.
Laurie Clements Lambeth is the author of Veil and Burn (University of Illinois Press, 2008), selected by Maxine Kumin for the National Poetry Series. Her poetry publications include Poetry Magazine, Crazyhorse, The Paris Review, Seneca Review, and Bellevue Literary Review, where her poem won their 2014 award for poetry. Her creative nonfiction has recently appeared in The New York Times, Ecotone, and Crab Orchard Review. Initially from California, she lives in Houston, Texas and holds creative writing MFA and PhD degrees from the University of Houston, where she was awarded Barthelme and Michener fellowships for poetry. When not writing, she teaches Medical Humanities courses for UH’s Honors College.
About Self-Portrait with Barium: Dysphagia Swallow she said: "Having lived with relapsing Multiple Sclerosis for thirty years, I continue to be surprised by its widely varied symptoms and the question of progression. Among other symptoms, my MS has caused mild, intermittent swallowing difficulty in recent years. I felt compelled to write Self Portrait with Barium: Dysphagia Swallow after viewing the repeated video of my modified barium swallow alongside a speech pathologist. Having just finished teaching a film and medicine course, I couldn’t help but think of the hundred years of cinematic technology alive in this film of my interior. Viewing my skull, recognizing the profile but also seeing her on screen as a separate character, I felt a profound cherishing and sadness for her when the tongue—just a line—attempted again and again to gather food and swallow, which only later I linked to the physical sensation of my swallowing. As I continued to write the poem, the tongue gained resonance as the source of language—writing—and the means by which we convey memory, yet another symptom of MS. That hesitation but desire to ingest is akin to my hesitation to speak or write when I have trouble remembering, but I will not let either one induce starvation or utter silence."
Poet, playwright, and actor Michael Mack graduated from the Writing Program at MIT. He is two-time winner of the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Artist Fellowship, the state's most competitive and prestigious individual arts grant, for his autobiographical lyric plays. His first, Hearing Voices, Speaking in Tongues, chronicles his mother’s life with, and recovery from, schizophrenia. His second, Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith, won Best Script award at NYC's Midtown International Theatre Festival. Mack's solo performances have received feature coverage in The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and NPR, and he regularly performs for consumers and providers of mental health services. Visit www.michaelmacklive.com
About Glass Houses he said: "When I was five years old, my mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her life and struggle have been profoundly important to me personally and poetically. The inspiration for this poem was the classic diagnostic technique in psychiatry of asking a patient the meaning of a proverb. I imagine the poem as her response, attempting to convey an inner experience of overwhelming illumination.”
Elisabeth Murawski is the author of Zorba’s Daughter, which won the May Swenson Poetry Award, Moon and Mercury, and two chapbooks: Troubled by an Angel and Out-patients. Nearly three hundred poems have been published in journals or online. For individual poems she has won, among others, the Gabriela Mistral Poetry Prize, the University of Canberra’s International Poetry Prize, and the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize. She has received ten Pushcart Prize nominations. Born and raised in Chicago, an alumna of De Paul University, she earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. She currently resides in Alexandria, VA.
About Heat she said: “I hadn’t known until I read a biography of Longfellow that his wife Fanny had died a horrible death, her dress set on fire either by a match or hot sealing wax. Henry smothered the flames but was unable to save her. I struggle with the concept “there are no accidents.” I wanted to bear witness to his deep love for her, his sorrow and guilt, his fear of going mad. He didn’t write about his grief until the sonnet “The Cross of Snow” some eighteen years later.”
Kate Nitze facilitates and develops courses for the Mindful Caregiver Education program at Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, where she also serves as a bedside volunteer. Following a career in book publishing, she continues to work as a freelance editor with healthcare organizations and both nonfiction and fiction authors. She has an MFA from the University of Montana, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various literary journals including Ninth Letter and Bone Bouquet.
She said: "Goodbye Letter for Bed 3 comes out of my experiences as a hospice caregiver. The “you” in the poem is inspired by the residents I sit with who often seem to exist both in this world and elsewhere, gesturing and laboring toward the beyond. From the physical place of tending to and observing people in the hours before death, I imagine the landscapes they might see and what might bring them comfort along the way."
Ilse Pedler has had poems published previously in Poetry News, Prole, Salzburg Poetry Review and The North among others, as well as in two anthologies. She was shortlisted in The Rialto Nature Poetry competition in 2014 and 2015 and in the Bridport prize 2016 and is the winner of the 2015 Mslexia Pamphlet Competition. Her pamphlet, The Dogs That Chase Bicycle Wheels was published by Seren in March 2016. She lives and works as a Veterinary Surgeon in Saffron Walden.
said: “The Thief came from the
experience of visiting my father in hospital after he had had a stroke. Those
months before he died seemed to consist of moments of panic and impossible
decision making and hours and hours of sitting by his hospital bed feeling
helpless. One day when we came home from visiting him, there was indeed a magpie
that was trying to steal a blackbird fledgling from a nest in the garden and
the outcome seemed like another hopeless inevitability. The final line sums up
some of the frustration of the whole experience and I guess not wanting my
father to die.”
Robert M. Randolph is Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Waynesburg University, in Pennsylvania. He has published in about 50 journals in the USA and abroad, and his full length collection, Floating Girl (Angel of War) was published by Elixir Press. He has been a Fulbright Scholar in Finland and Greece.
About All our Names he
said: “My daughter died at age 32 after a two year battle with cancer. It was
already at stage four when it was diagnosed. In those two years she continued
to embrace life with vigor and faith. Weeks before her death, she was about to be certified as
a hippotherapist. It was the wounded helping the wounded. So are we all, at our
Lesley Saunders is the author of several books of poetry, including Cloud Camera, a book of poems about the dream lives of scientific instruments and medical techniques (Two Rivers Press 2012). She has performed her work at literary festivals and on the radio, and has worked on collaborative projects with artists, sculptors, musicians, photographers and dancers. Otherwise, she works as an independent researcher in education and is a visiting professor at UCL Institute of Education, London. www.lesleysaunders.org.uk
About Ice Maiden she said: “I was struck by a story told by Atul Gawande in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, about a little girl who was rescued shortly after fallin into an icy pond; despite being ‘dead’ for an hour and a half she was eventually restored to full health by the extraordinary efforts of a medical team. Also making an appearance at the centre of the poem is the so-called Siberian ice maiden, whose body and clothing was preserved for many centuries in the frozen steppe-land.
the Inspiration for The Hare-lip she said: “This poem had its beginnings in an exhibition of silverware,
where a small and relatively unadorned beaker from the fifteenth century caught
my eye. A description on the Victoria and Albert Museum website notes that: ‘the beaker is
of small capacity and clearly intended as a personal drinking vessel’. I wanted to tell a story about
whom it might have been made for –
although the surgical operation I describe was actually carried out in the 19th
Joyce Schmid is a psychotherapist in Silicon Valley, California. Her recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Chautauqua, Atlanta Review, Blueline, and other journals and anthologies. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband of half a century.
About the inspiration for
the poem Pigmented Nevus she said: “My
daughter was born with a dark birthmark covering her kneecap. I was advised to
watch it, and eventually, when she was eight, to have it removed to prevent
melanoma. My daughter begged, cried, and raged against its removal.
Surgery has different meanings to children of different ages, and to that
eight-year-old child, this surgery meant mutilation and loss of bodily
integrity. Her surgeon’s comment regarding the fate of her tissue underscores
the need for psychiatric awareness in any physician who interacts with
patients, especially children.
Mary-Patrice Woehling, Ph.D., has been a finalist in poetry competitions in the United States, Scotland, and England. She writes lyric poetry. Her sonnets have been published in First Things and America. She teaches English at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, New York.
She said that what inspired Cannoli was her beautiful mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s. Mary-Patrice is writing a series of sonnets and villanelles based on her experience as a caregiver.