2018 FPM Hippocrates Open Prize: winning and commended entries


Joanne Key  Crewe, Cheshire, England - Colony


Sarah Ann Leavesley  Droitwich, Worcestershire, England - At breaking point


Aniqah Choudhri Lancashire, England - Repeat Prescriptions

Raphael Dagold  Bishkek, Chuy, Kyrgyzstan - Pharmacology


Louisa Archer  Rhône-Alpes, France   - The Last Supper

Sara Emmelyn Backer  Hollis, New Hampshire, USA - Coal Crow Shark

Peter Daniels  London, England - Pears

Christy Ducker  Hexham, Northumberland, England - To do 

Dina Elenbogen  Evanston, Illinois, USA - Midnight Bridges

Michael Henry  Cheltenham Gloucestershire, England - The Zoology Notebooks

Alice Hiller  London, England - Conjugation

Hannah Kimbal  Alexandria, Virginia, USA - When I Was Sick

Sarah Ann Leavesley Droitwich, Worcestershire, England - Postpartum

Julia Rose Lewis  Radnor, Pennsylvania, USA - Hieratic Respiration

Julia Rose Lewis  Radnor, Pennsylvania, USA - High Erratic Inspiration 

Cath Nichols  Warrington, Cheshire, England - Calculus

Cheryl Ann Pearson  Manchester, England - When It Might Be Cancer

Marcia Pelletiere  Montclair, New Jersey, USA - The doctor takes the sailor’s history

Kelly Vande Plasse  Brooklyn, New York, USA - Milking the Scorpion

Tamar Rubin  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - Playing boggle in the hospice

Bassam Sidiki  Ann Arbor, MI, USA - A CapellaTM

Bogusia Wardein  Poland/Ireland/Norway - Self-Portrait with a Squirrel

Sue Wootton  Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand - As it is on Earth

Sue Wootton  Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand - Rx

Sara Backer photo Nov2016

Sara Backer, a part-time instructor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts, has two poetry chapbooks published: Scavenger Hunt (Dancing Girl Press 2018) and Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork 2015) which won the Turtle Island Poetry Award. She has also published a novel, American Fuji (Penguin), in which a main character has autoimmune disease. Her writing has been honored with seven Pushcart Prize nominations and fellowships from Norton Island and Djerassi artist residency programs. Visit www.sarabacker.com for links and news.

About the inspiration for Coal Crow Shark she said: "Chronic illness, treatment, and self care can consume one’s time as well as one’s body. What is it like to be ambitious and have an autoimmune illness that literally eats you from the inside out? What is it like to be an outlier, beyond the range of empathy? How does the mind-body relationship change, when afflicted, to allow one sense to fill in for another? What, really, is success? 

Aniqah Choudri

Aniqah Choudhri is a journalist and copywriter. Her work has appeared in Exeunt Magazine, The F Word and several local newspapers. She previously won the lightship flash fiction prize. She tweets at @aniqahc

About Repeat Prescriptions she said: ”I wanted to illustrate the complete loss of control that mental illness and the remedies for mental illness can give you. It felt particularly important that I submit this to a competition centred around medicine. When I was first diagnosed nearly a decade ago I didn't even realise mental disorders are a medical issue or that they could happen to so many people. There is still stigma attached to the topic and it felt liberating to discuss it so frankly in a poem. 

Raphael Dagold Photo Web

Raphael Dagold’s first book, Bastard Heart, was published in 2014 by Silverfish Review Press, and was a finalist for the Utah Book Award in Poetry. Prizes include the Mountain States Writers’ Award in Poetry, an AWP Intro Award, and the American Literary Review Creative Nonfiction Award; more recent awards include a Commendation in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition, Finalist in the Mary C. Mohr Award in Poetry, and fellowships from the Jentel Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in journals such as The Normal School, Tupelo Quarterly, Diode, Southern Indiana Review, and Crab Orchard Review. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

About Pharmacology he said: “In 2016, when I moved from the U.S. to Kyrgyzstan to begin teaching at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, I was surprised by how drastically unmoored I felt: the geographical shift seemed a sea-change of my whole being, not just mentally, but physically too. I had stopped smoking a few years earlier but still chewed Nicorette, which doesn’t seem to exist in Kyrgyzstan, even conceptually. So my search for nicotine gum in Bishkek was a site of intersection for my mental and physical states—and luckily, I found some humor in all this, which I hope the poem exhibits."

Peter Daniels by Alistair Kerr DSC 0513 crop2

Photo of Peter Daniels by Alistair Kerr

Peter Daniels has two poetry collections, Counting Eggs (Mulfran, 2012) and A Season in Eden (Gatehouse, 2016). His translations of Khodasevich from Russian (Angel Classics, 2013) were shortlisted for three awards. As Queer Writer in Residence at the London Metropolitan Archives he wrote the obscene Ballad of Captain Rigby (Personal Pronoun, 2013). Currently he is writing a poetry PhD at Goldsmiths University of London on the theme of truth and beauty.

The inspiration for ‘Pears’ he said: ” At 63 I take my body less for granted, and in poems I have been wondering aloud about its workings. Of course asking the right people or looking at the right sources would surely tell me what I need to know, but there is still some urge to keep a mystery mysterious, which is why this is a poem about the experience of wondering. 

christy photo colour #1

Christy Ducker is a UK poet, and Research Fellow at Newcastle University’s Institute for Creative Arts Practice. Her first full-length poetry collection, Skipper, was published in 2015, and includes work commended by the Forward Prize judges. Her pamphlet, Armour (2011), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. Her commissions include residencies with Port of Tyne, English Heritage, and York University’s Centre for Immunology and Infection. Her PhD work at Newcastle University was awarded the 2015 Ella Ritchie Prize.

She said: "The poem To Do began in the workspace of Cat Irving, the Curator of Human Remains at Edinburgh’s Wohl Pathology Museum. I spent a couple of days with Cat, marvelling at her humanity and craft as she worked to conserve various specimens of pathological anatomy for display. Amongst the drill bits, tubs of preserving fluid, and archived heads was Cat’s noticeboard  where her breezy ‘To Do’ list was pinned. Pathos and affection ran through every line of that list, and ultimately sparked the poem.”

Dina Elenbogen (43 of 50)

Dina Elenbogen, a widely published and award winning poet and prose writer is author of the memoir, Drawn from Water (BKMk Press, University of Missouri) and the poetry collection Apples of the Earth (Spuyten Duyvil, NY) Her work has appeared in anthologies including, City of the Big Shoulders (University of Iowa Press) Beyond Lament (Northwestern University press), Where We Find Ourselves (SUNYPress) and magazines and journals including Lit Hub, december magazine, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Woven Tale Press, Bellevue Literary Review, Tikkun, Paterson Literary Review,  New City Chicago and the Chicago Reader. She has received fellowships in poetry and prose from the Illinois arts Council and the Ragdale Foundation. She has a poetry MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and teaches creative writing at the University of Chicago Graham School. She has just completed a second poetry manuscript entitled Most of What is Beautiful and is working on an essay collection called Losing Our Sages.You can visit her at www.dinaelenbogen.com

She said: "Midnight Bridges was inspired by a conversation, after a hiatus of many decades, with a friend with whom I studied poetry at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. When we resumed our conversation about poetry, life and memory after all those years, I was stunned by the passage of time, what had happened to our country, our bodies, our families and how clear our memories of our lives in Iowa remained.  Time offered its gifts of perspective and sometimes the line between past and present became unclear. I was struck by how poetry, conversation and friendship has continued to be a sanctuary for each of us. 

r Michael Henry

Michael Henry has had four collections of poetry published with Enitharmon Press and one with Five Seasons Press. He lives in Cheltenham. He was a Hawthornden Fellow in 1989 and he won the Hippocrates Open Prize for Poetry In 2011. 

He said: "I was inspired to write The Zoology Notebooks from looking through my mother’s things and finding her first year medical notebooks, dated 1932 when she was just seventeen. I was drawn particularly to the artistry of her drawings.”

Alice Hiller2

Alice Hiller began her professional career as a freelance features journalist, writing on popular and youth culture.  She published a history of the T-Shirt with Ebury Press, before studying for an Anglo-American PhD at University College London. After working on the draft of a novel which responded to her own direct experience of sexual abuse in childhood, Alice began to explore the topic through poetry in 2014. Alice was awarded a year long Jerwood Arvon mentorship in 2017.  She reviews for the TLS and Poetry Review, was short listed for the 2017 Bridport Prize, and runs a twice monthly workshop for emerging poets in London. More about Alice Hiller ...

She said: ”Conjugation was the first poem I wrote.  I started it on a park bench immediately after a pelvic MRI scan, following up on surgery for an ovarian tumour.  The MRI precipitated a visual re-play of when I was raped aged 8.  Translating my trauma into imagery helped make my silenced experience visible and comprehensible.  My first collection, album without photos, is in progress. The poems aim to ‘hold’ the experience of sexual abuse for those making their lives in its aftermath.  I also want to offer a wider readership a way in to this difficult topic – with a view to changing awareness and facilitating healing through the processes of articulation.”

Joanne Key

Joanne Key lives in Cheshire. She is completely in love with poetry and writesevery day. Her work has been published in various places both online and in print. She has won prizes in a number of competitions including second prize in the National Poetry Competition in 2014 and The Charles Causley Competition in 2016. She was Runner-Up in the Prole Poetry Competition in 2017, Highly Commended in the Bare Fiction Poetry Competition in 2016, and has recently been Commended in this year's York Poetry Competition. Her work has also been shortlisted in a number of other competitions, including Mslexia and The Bridport Prize.

She said: "The poem Colony is about witnessing the distressing symptoms my father experienced at a time when he was suffering from multiple complications related to terminal illness, alcohol dependency and withdrawal. Writing the poem has helped me to explore these difficult memories and the complexities of our relationship.

S.A. Leavesley (2)

S.A. Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist and editor. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015 and highly commended in the U.K. Forward Prizes, she has also been published by the  Guardian and Financial Times. Sarah is author of four poetry collections, two poetry pamphlets, a touring poetry-play and two novellas. She runs V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint and her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk.

About At breaking point she said: This is a poem that I hope speaks for itself better than I can for it. In fact, my gut instinct is to caution people against my inspiration, in case it alters their individual reading of At breaking point, which might be and mean different things for different readers. For me though, the writing was inspired by two distinct things. The first is memories of my great-grandmother’s dementia shortly before her death, and talking to Alzheimer’s carers since. The second is my own fear, as a mother with type 1 diabetes and depression, for what my sons might one day have to deal with. Trying to see myself through their eyes reminds what I need to stay strong for.  

About Postpartum she said ”This poem was written after a longish period of depression when my sons were young. For me, depression is often like living my life at a distance, or as if encased in ice. Part of getting better was starting to feel things fully again. Losing the numbness meant I was living once more but it also brought with it a great sense of grief for everything that had been missed by me and, potentially, my boys in the meantime.”

r Julia Lews

Julia Rose Lewis is the author of Phenomenology of the Feral (Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2017) and co-author of Strays (Haverthorn Press 2017).  She has written three pamphlets: Zeroing Event (Zarf Editions 2016), Exhalation Halves Lambda (Finishing Line Press 2017), How to Hypnotize a Lobster (Fathom Books 2018) winner of the Pitch Viper Prize.  


Cath Nichols has been chronically ill since a back injury in 2016. Physiotherapy and the correction of vitamin B anaemia did not improve her health and she now has a diagnosis of CFS with pain. Her interest in literary disability studies predates this, and she is grateful for the people and ideas she met through dis-lit conferences: their witness and wit has made her own impairments easier to live with. After being away from work for 11 months she is now on a phased return to the part-time teaching of creative writing at the University of Leeds, UK. She has a pamphlet Tales of Boy Nancy (erbacce, 2012) and two poetry collections: My Glamourous Assistant (Headland, 2007), and This is Not a Stunt (Valley Press, 2017). These explore notions of otherness through sexuality, transgender experience, and latterly disability.

Comments on Calculus: ” I wanted to make something that spoke of my limitations in an honest way but with imagery that did not become tragic. Poetry needs to avoid provoking pity. When a person becomes disabled through illness they have to find ways to continue living, and I hope that that comes across. I also wanted to avoid being medical in terms of diagnosis or treatment options as the arc of diagnosis-treatment-cure does not occur for many of us living with chronic illness. There is a lot of waiting to be done!”


Marcia Pelletiere is a poet, musician, and interdisciplinary artist. Her second poetry collection, A Crown of Hornets, is forthcoming from Four Way Books (Spring 2019). That collection deals with Marcia’s healing journey after a car/truck accident in 2006 left her with an MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury). Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines including Ploughshares; JAMA; Prairie Schooner; Southern Poetry Review; and Painted Bride Quarterly. More at www.marciapelletiere.com

About The Doctor Takes the Sailor’s History she said: “The MTBI was tremendously isolating, since most people couldn’t understand the turbulent and nearly indescribable inner world of brain injury. However, a few doctors and other caregivers made a kind of imaginative leap into understanding my situation, and they were vital to my recovery. This poem arose out of a wish to celebrate their gift of empathy, and to encourage others to aim in that direction when confronted with patients suffering from invisible illnesses.


Cheryl Pearson is the author of Oysterlight (Pindrop Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including The Guardian, The High Window, Poetry NorthWest, and Frontier. She has won the High Sheriff's Cheshire Prize for Literature, the Torbay Open Poetry Competiton and the Bedford International Writing Competiton,and been shortlisted for the Keats Shelley Prize and the Gregory O’Donoghue Poetry Competition. Her short story, "The Fishwife", was commended in the Costa Short Story Awards. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England.

She said: "I wrote When It Might be Cancer after a health scare in 2017. Thankfully I got the all clear just before Christmas, but before that, I was suddenly in this strange place where I was questioning my mortality for the first time, and waiting for results that could potentially derail my life. I processed it by writing about the experience, creating a narrator who shared my experience so that I could address my fears in a way I found difficult at the time.” 


Kelly Vande Plasse is a former editor of The New York Quarterly.  Her poems have received awards from Atlanta Review and the Paterson Literary Review. Her work has also appeared in The Louisiana Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, The New York Quarterly, and the Naugatuck River Review. Her collection, Evolution of the Whale, was a finalist for the 2015 Backwaters Prize.  Kelly has a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Michigan, and has spent her career working in the field of Health Care Design and Construction. For the past fourteen years, she has been with New York-Presbyterian Hospital.  She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. 

Inspiration:  Milking the Scorpion was inspired by the  American Museum of Natural History exhibit, The Power of Poison.  I was fascinated by the paradoxical nature of poison:  how what could kill, could also heal.  I was surprised to learn that many diseases are already treated with medicines derived from the venom of reptiles and arachnids.  Around the same time, I attended a Nat Geo Live presentation by  Dr. Zoltan Takacs – a  biomedical scientist who travels to  remote deserts, jungles, and tropical reefs to obtain venom samples from some of the deadliest creatures on earth and identify toxins that can be used to target specific diseases. 

photo Tamar Rubin

Tamar Rubin is paediatric clinical immunologist and allergist, and assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada. Tamar's poems can be found in medical and literary journals, including JAMA, The Examined Life, Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, Vallum, The New Quarterly, and many others. Her chapbook was shortlisted for the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Prize, and she is currently at work on a full length collection, entitled Tablet Fragments.

She said that her poem Playing boggle in the hospice was written during her fellowship in paediatric clinical immunology. The poem was inspired by an evening in the resident lounge, playing boggle into the late hours of the night, with a colleague. Watching the grains of sand slipping through the hourglass, I thought about one of my teenaged patients admitted to the ward that night, in the last days of her life, and imagined what time felt like for her at that moment. 

Bassam Sidiki

Bassam Sidiki is a Pakistani-American doctoral student in English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, with interests in medical humanities and 21st/20th century global Anglophone literature. He also writes poetry, fiction, and essays, some of which have appeared in Papercuts, The Missing Slate, and Jaggery. 

About the inspiration for the poem A CapellaTM he said: "I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, six months after moving to the US from Pakistan — ever since then I have been exploring illness in my writing. This poem reflects on when I was bedridden due to fungal pneumonia, a side-effect from chemo-related neutropenia. I composed it as part of my senior thesis at Georgetown University, where poet Carolyn Forché supervised my project.”

Bogusia Wardein

Photo of Bogusia Wardein courtesy of Dominik Herman

Bogusia Wardein is from Wroclaw, Poland, her literary home is Galway, Ireland and she currently resides in Oslo, Norway. Bogusia’s poetry has appeared in The Rialto, Stand, Poetry Wales, THE SHOp and other English, Irish, American and Indian journals, as well as anthologies including Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe, 2015) described as a ‘great collection of poems from some of the best women writing today.’ A Forward Prize nominee, she has been shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize and the Plough Poetry Prize. She suffers from Galway syndrome and has two unpublished collections of verse. Her website is www.bogusiawardein.com

She said: ”Self-Portrait with a Squirrel comes from my yet-to- be-published collection Bliss and is dedicated to Adam Zagajewski, whose work inspired me. It is a celebration of my life written during a rainy summer after I came across two dead squirrels on a road..”

Sue Wootton-092012-300dpi(1)

Sue Wootton lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. A physiotherapist-turned-writer, she is a PhD candidate at the University of Otago, researching the importance of literature to a holistic view of health and wellbeing. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted for the fiction prize in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and her fifth poetry collection, The Yield (Otago University Press) is currently shortlisted in the 2018 poetry category of these annual awards. Sue edits a weekly Health Humanities e-magazine called Corpus: Conversations about Medicine and Life, found at corpus.nz Sue has won several awards for her writing. Read more on her website: suewootton.com

 About the inspiration for the poems she said:

As it is on Earth: This poem is about luck: the luck of being born into a loving environment – or the bad luck of not – and the awesome responsibility of being a parent. It’s an optimistic poem though, I think, hanging on tenaciously to the idea that it might be possible to improve on the cards we’re dealt. Heart, hater, earth – same letters, different words.

 Rx: D. H. Lawrence’s line, “I am ill because of wounds to the soul” seems very apt in these divided and angry times. This is a poem about healing wounds to our cultural selves: “Resurrect the many, many ways of saying sister, brother.”. There’s a lot at stake if we don’t. “Rx” is a plea to restore the fullness of language, to practice patience, to listen, read and remember.“

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