2018 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize: winning, shortlisted and commended entries

With £500 for the Young Poets Award, the Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for Poetry and Medicine  is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem by a young poet. The Young Poets award is supported by healthy heart charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust.

The 2018 Hippocrates Young Poet Award is being judged by Toronto poet Alisha Kaplan 

About the Young Poet entries she said: “I am in awe of the clarity, wisdom, and resilience with which these young poets write. Weaving medical language with lyrical, they give raw, honest depictions of both physical and mental illness. These poems are written with the vision one can gain when malady or death enters and pervades one’s world, changing its colors, textures, tempo.”

She added: “There are many candid elegies to bodies transformed visibly or invisibly by illness, addressed to loved ones as well as to the poets’ own selves. At times whispering, at times keening, these voices face their pain and grief, and out of their suffering make something beautiful, something true.”

The winning, shortlisted and commended poems in the 2018 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize will be published in the annual Hippocrates Prize Anthology. The 2018 Hippocrates Prize Anthology will be launched at the 2018 Hippocrates Awards ceremony at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago on Friday 11th May.


Taylor Fang, Logan, Utah, USA - Letter to Body Made Hollow 


Margot Armbruster, Elm Grove, Wisconsin, USA - Husk 
Haemaru Chung, New York City, NY, USA - Alice  
Taylor Fang, Logan, Utah, USA - On the Evolution of Cancer  


Miles Johnston McInerney, San Diego, California, USA - 20 Reasons Why I Can’t Order in a Restaurant  

Vivian Lu, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA - Case Study on Grief  

Lara Wise, Oundle, Northamptonshire, England - In Quarantine 

Sabina Holzman, Laguna Beach, California, USA - Panic Attack as a House Fire in the City  

Shannon Lin, Santa Clara, California, USA - Passing  

Taylor Fang,  Logan, Utah, USA - Scale of Bone Density, Azure 

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Margot Armbruster attends Brookfield Academy in Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Best Teen Writing of 2016, among others. She is an alumna of the Adroit Journal’s Summer Mentorship Program and the Iowa Young Writers Studio; her work has been recognized by the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom, Princeton University, the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and Hollins University. She reads poetry for Sooth Swarm Journal.

She said: “Husk is an exploration of anorexia’s grisly effects: along with physical decay, a mind simultaneously fixated on the body and distanced from it by the dullness of continued starvation. In this poem, I attempt to convey the intensity of my own battle with the disease using Christianity as my lens. Indeed, to the anorexic, struggling against wellness is a kind of religion, a faith, of course, ultimately based in delusion. While theists derive power and purpose from their beliefs, self-starvers reap nothing but suffering and, too often, death.“ 

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Haemaru Chung: A writer, violinist, photographer and athlete, Haemaru is currently a junior at Trinity School in New York City.  His stories and poems have been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Rider University Annual High School Writing Contest, Jack London Foundation Fiction Writing Contest, William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, and Quill & Scroll Competition, among others.  Other works have been published in many literary magazines, including The RoundLouisville ReviewThe Interlochen Review and The Daphne Review.  He attended the writing workshops at the Kenyon Review and the 92nd Street Y.

Commentary on the Shortlisted Poem (Alice)At the time I wrote Alice, I had begun to truly conceive the significance of death. I saw how some of my friends were affected by the passing of their loved ones and their grief impacted me strongly. Certain personal events also led me to realize that the people whom I care for could unexpectedly be taken away. For example, my paternal grandmother nearly lost her life to multiple cancers a few years ago and has since been fighting a brave battle against those cancers. Although I have not yet experienced the loss of someone extremely close to me, I developed a fear about what could happen and how tenuous life could be. I wrote Alice partly as a means of internalizing and exploring this fear. However, I also wrote it after witnessing my friends suffering this very fear and seeing how they pushed past their anguish. Accordingly, I wrote Alice to deliberate on the weight of death on the remaining loved ones and the process of recovering and moving onward with one's life.

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Taylor Fang is a high school student in Utah. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Poetry Society UK, and Hollins University, among others, as well as published in numerous magazines and chapbooks. She was an Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program participant this past summer. Besides poetry, she enjoys journalism, piano, and spending time outdoors.

On the inspirations for her poems she said:

Letter to Body Made Hollow explores illness as a persistent carving out of the physique, the mind, and the presence, and tries to capture the feeling that disease can alienate a person from his/her own body. Moreover, it explores the ability to find beauty in the face of illness: the intricate way nature is able to heal and absolve, and the struggle to hold on to the things that don’t change. I wanted to express the hollows and empty places, as well as the body reclaiming those identities. Illness, in all forms, is deeply personal, but the perspective of onlooker in this poem testifies to the poignancy of both witnessing and experiencing disease.  

On the Evolution of Cancer was inspired by the changing nature of cancer, exploring the landscape of this terrible disease as analogous to the evolution of birds. Birds experience beautiful and profound transformations, yet cancer wrecks devastation. I wanted to explore change and motion and stillness and silence—the juxtapositions and contradictions behind both these animals of flight and cancerous cells. There is so much we don’t understand about cancer, about the body, the invisible mechanisms in every organism. This poem is a testimony to acknowledging the fear of the unknown but also revealing beauty as a path to healing.

Scale of Bone Density, Azure was inspired by the way disease can change and add layers to memory, refocusing the lens on past experiences. It also explores the perspective of those not directly affected by disease, and their views on healing and recovery from pain. I wanted less to decipher the complex emotions presented by illness, and more to focus on describing those feelings and the images they invoke for all those affected.  

Shannon Lin

Shannon Lin is a high school senior at Santa Clara High School. Her poetry and prose have been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and is a designated California Arts Scholar.

She said: “Passing is a reflection of observing death as a child, and written in memory of my aunt who passed away of cancer when I was in elementary school. I was unable to comprehend the emotions and chaos caused by disease; the rapid changes to my life and frequent trips to the hospital made me disassociate myself from the whole process, and I was unable to come to term with what was happening. When I grew up, it became important for me to understand that part of my childhood, and express the briefness and potency of living with a sick loved one.


Miles Johnston McInerney was born in London and grew up in San Diego, California.  He attends the Bishops’ School in La Jolla, California.  His work has been recognized by the Poetry Society (U.K. Foyles Young Poets) and the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards (U.S.).

Miles said: "I wrote 20 Reasons Why I Can’t Order in a Restaurant after Juan Felipe Herrera visited my school last year.  He spoke about protest poems.  At the same time, I was waiting to be matched into a phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate suramin, a century-old drug used for African sleeping sickness as a novel treatment for children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Robert Naviaux, MD, Ph.D., professor of medicine, pediatrics, and pathology at UC San Diego published that suramin reversed symptoms of ASD in mouse models. In my participant interview, he asked me what I hoped to achieve by participating in the clinical trial.  At the time, I wished I could order in a restaurant. He told me autism might be a consequence of abnormal cell communication resulting from activation of the cell danger response. 20 Reasons Why I Can’t Order in a Restaurant is a protest poem about cell danger response.”

Lara Wise

Lara Wise is14 years old and goes to Oundle School which is in Northamptonshire, England. 

About her poem In Quarantine she said: ”When my class and I were presented with the theme for the poem “Medical” I instantly though of writing a poem about someone in quarantine, I think it is a very strong topic because due to the lack of outstanding occurrences from the body, the body’s senses refine and fine-tune, I found this really fascinating and I knew I had to write about it. As a young child I had many allergies and so I spent much time in hospitals and doctors rooms waiting, I discovered how when I was faced with this intense boredom I could focus much more clearly on my senses and the world around me.”

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