2013 Hippocrates NHS Awards: poets and poems

NHS award winners by surname

Birds - Ann Elisabeth Gray, Liskeard, Cornwall - Second Prize

Biopsy - Ann Lilian Jay, Nr LLandysul, Ceredigion - Third Prize

The New Man - Bella Madden, Milton Keynes, Bucks - Third Prize

Emergency Call - Ian McDowell, London - Third Prize

Downs -  Mary V Williams, Market Drayton, Shropshire - First Prize

Ann Gray has an MA in Creative writing from the University of Plymouth. Her collections include At The Gate (Headland, 2008), The Man I Was Promised (Headland, 2004),   Painting Skin (Fatchance Press, 1995)   Her poems have been selected for the Forward Prize Anthology in 1995 and 2008, and commended for the National Poetry Competition, 2010.  Trained as a Registered Nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. She now lives and works in Cornwall where she has a care home for people with dementia, in a 3 acre setting of therapeutic gardens and orchards.

The inspiration for Birds, exactly as the poem states, was finding a paper bird at my feet when walking along Sydney Street in London recently. It took me back to the time I worked on Kenton Ward at Barts, my second ward, I would have been 19. Barts specialised in the treatment of retinoblastoma and many of the children on the ward would have had this condition. I was asked to mind an older child and found making paper birds distracted him from the pain and boredom of being cooped up in a hospital bed all day. 

The only paper available was the rather stiff yellow xray paper, but it made very fine huge birds. We filled his side room with them. Everything about the hospital is as I remember it. I still have the occasional nightmare about pushing beds along the basement inter-connecting corridors. We had huge responsibilty, with a peripetetic night sister who visited twice a night for a report. She had to wear an outdoor cloak as Barts had an open square she would have crossed to get to the children's wards.

Ann Jay has an MA in Medical Humanities from the University of Swansea. After a brief flirtation with Paediatrics she found her spiritual home in General Practice, initially in Sheffield where she qualified, and then in West Wales where home visits involve getting lost in country lanes and occasional glimpses of the sea. Since retiring in 2010 she has been indulging a lifelong love of writing. She is close to finishing a novel for children and is interested in writing poetry that mines the interface between working as a doctor in the NHS and being a patient of the same much loved institution.

Inspiration for my poem ‘Biopsy’: The poem arises directly out of my own experience of breast cancer which was diagnosed in 1997. I had a lumpectomy locally and was then referred to the Royal Marsden. Prior to my first visit I was asked if I ‘minded’ taking my pathological specimen along with me.  When I was given the slide I was startled by my reaction to it which was a mixture of detachment and wonder. I held in my hand a bit of a tumour that might cause my early death but found myself admiring its colours and delicacy. Over the intervening years I have sometimes returned to this image in my mind and tried to write about it.  Only recently did all these efforts crystallise into this poem.

Bella Madden has been a senior lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Bedfordshire, England, since 1999. She is interested in using poetry, drama and the arts in the education of student midwives as an aid to personal and professional reflection and development. She writes, and has on occasion performed, her own poetry. Bella has three children, is recently married, and lives in Milton Keynes.

The New Man was written during her first partner’s illness, and was inspired by the change serious illness can bring in people and relationships.

Ian McDowell read English at Christ’s College Cambridge before working as a hospital chaplain in East London. Emergency Call is reflection of his experiences in that role. He now works with patients, doctors and nurses across London to improve patient experience. Ian McDowell is a Fellow of the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge University and studies at the Poetry Society with Jane Duran.  

In 'Emergency Call' the old universals - love, loss, and longing – thrash against bleached-out modernity, and somehow hold their own. The poem was inspired by years of chaplaincy work in East London Emergency Rooms.

Mary V. Williams is a writer and poet living in Shropshire. After a mis-spent but exciting youth, she trained in psychotherapy, working in Mental Health and allied fields most of her life, having failed to keep order as a teacher and bored by banking, her first career choices. She gained a late MA and was then commissioned to write two self -help books for SPCK, and has since published three fiction novels and poetry. She has also been a foster parent, market trader and bookseller. She is a member of several writers' groups in her area, including Keele Poets at Silverdale. www.valentinewilliams.co.uk

Downs was inspired by my working in a pre-school nursery for special needs chidren, and by their need for love and acceptance, and their ability to give back so much in retun. They often moved me to tears.

 © Hippocrates initiative 2012: hippocrates.poetry@gmail.com