2016 Hippocrates Prize Young Poets Shortlist and Honorable Mentions


Catherine Wang, Hong Kong    Six pills

Short listed poets

Mia Nelson, Denver, Colorado, USA    love under the scalpel, or romanticizing a sick girl

Audrey Spensley, Avon Lake, Ohio, USA    Dissection

Audrey Spensley, Avon Lake, Ohio, USA    Requiem for a Surgery Scar

Audrey Spensley, Avon Lake, Ohio, USA    Variations on a Craniotomy

Amy Wolstenholme, Salisbury, England    words in the bone


Honorable mentions

Norviewu Dzimega, Orpington, England    I am

Naabil Khan, London, England    My Scars

Alana McDermott, Oldham, England     Letters Upon The Sea

Cara Nicholson, Oundle, England    An Unwanted Visitor  

Ally Steinberg, New York, New York, USA    The Jacks

Biographies of poets and inspiration for their poems

Norviewu Dzimega said: "I am a student now at the University of Exeter in my first year, studying psychology, so I have an interest in the human body, and more specifically, the psyche.”

About I am: "Acne, spots, pimples are something that every one of us has experienced, in differing levels of severity. It is a struggle which we can all relate to, whether we've only had the one odd spot or a face full of acne. Therefore, I hoped it would resonate with many people. Yet, among the grotesque nature of spots, I cannot fail to be in awe of the amazing human body and the way it fights diseases and heals itself so well, no matter how gross this may appear to us. This was the inspiration for my poem."


Naabil Khan lives in London with her parents and her sister. She attends Graveney School in Wandsworth and is currently in Year 8. Her favourite subjects are English and History and she loves to read authors such as James Dansher and Malorie Blackman. A strong swimmer she has competed in the London Youth Games 2013 and 2014. Her father wants her to be a doctor but Naabil has her own ideas about her future which currently appears to be working for NASA as an Engineer.

She said: "I was inspired to write My Scars because I know about bullying and the devastating effects it has on young kids. They hurt themselves leaving scars for a lifetime. Living in London you are always aware of kids getting hurt and surviving the streets and the gangs. The scars on a body tell the world your story."

Mia Nelson.jpg

Mia Nelson is a sophomore at Denver School of the Arts, majoring in Creative Writing. She is a staff reader for the fabulous Adroit Journal and also Ember: A journal of Luminous Things. Her poetry can be found in Calliope Literary MagazineCanvas Literary MagazineThe Midway Journal, and Crashtest Literary magazine. Her writing has been recognized by the Foyle Young Poets Prize 2015, the Hollins prize for poetry, Denver's Poetry to Go Contest, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and occasionally gets hung up on the fridge.

She said: "What inspired me to write love under the scalpel ... is all the incredible and poignant art on the subject of illness and its effects on relationships. Movies and books like Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, or My Sister's Keeper are all very honest and heart wrenching pieces. In these novels, the end results is that everyone is there for the final words, or memorable moments of the ailing character's life.  I wanted to explore what might happen if a character was unable emotionally to deal with the pain it is to watch someone you love die. I think that resilience is such an important human phenomenon, but that weakness or fear is much more common and deserves to be written about.

Cara Nicholson.jpg

Cara Nicholson is in the L6 at Oundle School in Northamptonshire. She has often scrawled poems at four in the morning, but this was her first competition entry. She particularly enjoys the works of Margaret Atwood, Anne Carson and Sylvia Plath (who scares her in a good way). She hopes to further her love of English at University.

She said: "I wrote ‘An Unwanted Visitor’ in an attempt to explain what a panic attack feels like. Few people are immune from general worry in the pressures of today’s society, yet a wider fear of nothing in particular can be petrifying when it physically manifests itself seemingly out of nowhere. A conversation about mental health issues is more vital than ever if we are to reduce negative stigmas and prove that they do not make you insane, weak or any less capable. I hope this poem captures the claustrophobia of an illness that no one else can see." 

Audrey Spensley.jpg

Audrey Spensley is a 2014 Foyle Young Poet of the Year and a 2015 National YoungArts Winner in Poetry, Audrey Spensley has also been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, Notre Dame of Maryland University, and Georgia Perimeter College, among other organizations. Her most recent work is published or forthcoming in plain china, Hobart, Yellow Chair Review, Hermeneutic Chaos, The Sierra Nevada Review and The Chattahoochee Review. She attends Avon Lake High School in Ohio.

About the inspiration for her poems she said:

"Variations on a Craniotomy explores fatal illness, and the drastic techniques used to salvage life, from the perspective of a patient’s loved one. The poem was inspired by my experiences as a secondary viewpoint--a witness--in a family member's traumatic illness. In writing this poem, I was interested in examining an issue as devastating as a brain tumor through this lens; an observer is inherently limited in any medical scenario, because they do not experience the same range of physical and emotional trauma that the patient does, but they still become deeply familiar with the terminology, treatments, and fears associated with illness."

"Dissection was inspired by a routine trip to the pediatrician as well as the experience of dissecting fetal pigs in biology class. I wanted to examine anatomy from different poetic angles and characterize the body as something secretive and complex, worthy of both physical and metaphorical exploration. I think the human body is an intensely interesting subject to write about because it’s so universal, yet so individual—both a common denominator of the human race and the most basic form of physical differentiation." 

"Reqiuem for a Surgery Scar is about reacting to illness and incorporating the aftermath of traumatic surgery into daily life. It describes that time period after the immediate shock of diagnosis—in which pragmatism and disbelief often limits emotional reaction—and before the eventual acceptance of illness’s effects. The poem focuses on setting and place, secondary factors that dance around the illness, much as family members and friends avoid directly discussing the medical trauma. I also wanted to explore how something as undeniably visible as a physical scar can shape and heighten the post-procedural emotional reaction.”

Alexandra Steinberg.JPG

Alexandra (Ally) Steinberg is a junior at The Chapin School in New York, NY. She recently began to write poetry and this was the first time she had entered a poetry competition. She is interested in psychology and human nature and hopes to pursue a career in medicine. 

She said: "The inspiration from The Jacks comes from an attempt to try and understand the complicated psyches of those who suffer from mental illness and other conditions that are invisible to an outside perspective." As a migraine suffer, Ally realizes that people find great difficulty in understanding what they cannot see.

r Catherine Wang.jpg

Catherine Wang is currently a sophomore at Chinese International School, Hong Kong. Her creative achievements include placing 2nd place in the 2015 Hong Kong Top Story awards and being shortlisted for the 2010 and 2013 Hong Kong Young Writers' Awards. 

About her poem Six Pills  she said: "I was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease, when I was eleven. At the time, I understood little about my body and even less about what was wrong with it. In 'Six Pills', I wanted to capture the intimate landscapes of both experience and the unknown, and how the two converge in times of change. For me, this change was the point in treatment when the pills, fevers, and medical terms became inseparable from being. Writing this poem was an attempt at leaving fear behind."

Amy Wolstenholme.png

Amy Wolstenholme: "I am currently a student at South Wilts Grammar School, studying mathematics, chemistry, biology and English literature at A level. Next year, providing I obtain the correct grades, I will be studying biochemistry at Brasenose College, Oxford. I am absolutely fascinated by both science, especially genetics, and literature, so the chance to combine the two in poetry was a wonderful opportunity, and one that I really enjoyed. Last year I was commended in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition, which was the first time I had ever shared any of my poetry."

She said: "I wrote words in the bone because I was intrigued by the words that are used in situations, such as experiencing the loss of a loved one to an illness, where words are very difficult to say. From my experience, in these kinds of situations the words that are used often seem too scientific or clinical, too naïve or false or, most often, too deeply personal or emotional when given voice, and the result is a confusing confliction between the words spoken and the meaning that was intended. There is a fascinating poetry to be found in trying to navigate those difficulties, in how trivial words become significant and significant words inconsequential, and how most often the words that affect us most deeply are the ones that are never quite said."

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