Harvard poet and physician Rafael Campo wins Hippocrates Open International Prize for Poetry and Medicine


The £5000 2013 )pen International Hippocrates first prize has been awarded to Harvard poet and physician Rafael Campo. The second prize was shared by UK poet Matthew Barton, US Afghan war veteran Liam Corley from California and New Zealand poet Sue Wootton. The £500 international Hippocrates Young Poets Prize went to English poet Rosalind Jana.

See links for results of the Hippocrates NHS Awards and Young Poets Award.

Harvard poet and physician Rafael Campo wins Hippocrates Open International Prize for Poetry and Medicine 
Psychotherapist Mary V Williams wins Hippocrates NHS Prize for Poetry and Medicine
English poet Rosalind Jana awarded international Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for Poetry and Medicine 

Rafael Campo

Hippocrates Open Award Rafael Campo ©Hippocrates Prize

Rafael Campo, who travelled from the USA to accept his award, said “I am delighted to receive this prestigious international prize. Through my poem – about a dying patient – I was able to address the power of empathy to combat the distance we almost reflexively adopt toward our patients and confront our own shortcomings”.

The Hippocrates Prize is one of the most valuable poetry prizes in the world, with a yearly purse of £15000. 

The winners were announced at an International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine at the Wellcome Rooms in London on Saturday 18th May by the judges, poet Jo Shapcott, medical writer and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple and Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Grooup.

Open winners 2013

Open award winners, commended poets and judges ©Hippocrates Prize


The judges also agreed 20 commendations in the Open International category –  one each from Ireland, Scotland and Israel, seven from the USA and 10 from England, from the Isle of Wight to Yorkshire.

Judge Jo Shapcott said: 'The Hippocrates Prize, since its inception in 2009, has quickly established itself as one of the most important international prizes for poetry as well as providing a unique place for poetry and medicine to meet.  Its international reach is reflected in this years prizewinners who come from countries all round the globe, including New Zealand, the USA, Ireland, and Israel.“ 

She added: “You might imagine that poetry on medical themes would be sad, even grim reading, but far from it.  There was a lively range of subjects and perspectives in this year's batch, and the judges were lucky enough to be debating the merits of some outstanding poems which have in common their sheer brio, skill, and passion, and often an exhilarating deftness in deploying medical language so that it sings.”

Judge Roger Highfield commented 'The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine works brilliantly because medicine is where science collides with life. Again and again I found myself transported in mind and spirit to unfamiliar situations where I encountered the memories, experiences and inner emotional worlds of others. I found it enthralling and, at times, disturbing, a powerful reminder of the mysterious way that a few words can herd our thoughts and emotions.'

Judge Theodore Dalrymple remarked “As the Hippocrates Prize once again demonstrates, health care is a fertile source of poetic inspiration. All the poems arise from the need to communicate a deep human experience, and succeed in doing so.”

Donald Singer, Hippocrates Prize co-founder and President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, the major patron of the Hippocrates Initiative said "The FPM is delighted with the increasing success of the Hippocrates Open Awards in reaching out globally to poets, health professionals and the public.

"This year's winner Rafael Campo eloquently shows the power of poetry to help both health professionals and patients to engage with and learn from each other under the most testing of medical and personal challenges".

Hippocrates Prize co-founder poet Michael Hulse added: “We are delighted that the Hippocrates Open Prize continues to achieve a major international impact in inspiring and engaging poets of the highest quality in the interface between life, poetry and medicine.”

The awards symposium considered themes including poetry as therapy to help in recovery from stroke, poetry in health professional training, the impact of illness on the poet, and the history of poetry and medicine.

Speakers for the awards symposium came from the USA, UK, Spain and Switzerland. 

The Hippocrates Initiative – winner of the 2011 Times Higher Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in the Arts – is an interdisciplinary venture that investigates the synergy between medicine, the arts, and health.

To attend the Symposium see http://hippocrates-poetry.org

Notes to editors Acknowledge the Hippocrates Prize when reproducing photos. Photos of the finalists, along with biographies and extracts of their poems are available on request. 

For more information, please contact hippocrates.poetry@gmail.com

Awards: In the Open and NHS category there is a 1st prize of £5,000, 2nd prize £1,000, 3rd prize of £500, and further commendations each of £50.  

The Hippocrates Prize judges

Jo Shapcott was born in London. Poems from her three award-winning collections, Electroplating the Baby (1988), Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998) are gathered in a selected poems, Her Book (2000). She has won a number of literary prizes including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Collection, the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the National Poetry Competition (twice). Tender Taxes, her versions of Rilke, was published in 2001. Her most recent collection, Of Mutability, was published in 2010 and won the 2011 Costa Book Award. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in December 2011.   Jo Shapcott teaches creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Theodore Dalrymple is the pen name for Dr Anthony Daniels, who has worked as a doctor in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Gilbert Islands, London and Birmingham, most recently as a psychiatrist and prison doctor. His writing has appeared regularly in the press and in medical publications, including the British Medical Journal, the Times, Telegraph, Observer and the Spectator and he has published around 20 books, most recently The Pleasure of Thinking.

Roger Highfield is the Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group. He was born in Wales, raised in north London and became the first person to bounce a neutron off a soap bubble. He was the Science Editor of The Daily Telegraph for two decades and the Editor of New Scientist between 2008 and 2011.

More on the poets and their winning poems

Matthew Barton has published two collections, Learning to Row (Peterloo 1999) and Vessel (Brodie Poets, 2009). Awards include 2nd prize in the National Poetry Competition, BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year (twice winner), an Arts Council Writer’s Award and a Hawthornden Fellowship. He has given readings and workshops in a prison and primary and secondary schools, and for many years taught the poetry unit for Bristol University’s Diploma in Creative Writing. Most recently he appeared in the Bristol Poetry Festival 2012. He lives in Bristol with his family.

Oni inspiration for his winning poem ‘Tooth’ Matthew Barton said:  "Unable to easily afford a root canal treatment and crown, I decided to have a decayed molar tooth pulled out. I had never had this done before and was anxious about it. It was both better and worse than I was expecting: better, because the actual pain was not great; but worse, because of the surprising emotional impact it had on me, something close to grief. It called up all sorts of surprising feelings of loss than I hadn’t bargained for. 

"I found myself asking the dentist to let me have this extracted part of myself, so he wrapped it up in a rather bloody piece of gauze and I took it home, where (after being cleaned up) it sat on the mantelpiece. When I took it in my palm and scrutinised it, I found that it was not so much I, as it, that felt bereft. And this started the musings that led to the poem. A pulled tooth is hardly to be moaned about, in the scale of things; but it surprised me by rooting itself, for some reason, in deeper layers of the psyche."

Rafael Campo M.A., M.D., D. Litt.(Hon.), is a poet and essayist who teaches and practices general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.  He is also on the faculty of Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA Program.  He is the recipient of many honors and awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Poetry Series award, and a Lambda Literary Award for his poetry.  His most recent book, The Enemy (Duke University Press, 2007), won the Sheila Motton Book Award from the New England Poetry Club, one of America’s oldest poetry organizations. 

In 2009, he received the Nicholas E. Davies Memorial Scholar Award from the American College of Physicians for outstanding humanism in medicine.  Other poems of his have appeared recently in The Progressive, Slate.com, Threepenny Review, Yale Review, and elsewhere.  His new book of poems, Alternative Medicine, will be published later this year, also by Duke University Press.

On his first prize winning poem Rafael Campo said: "'Morbidity and mortality rounds' was conceived some years ago, after I visited a patient of mine in the hospital who was dying of hepatocellular carcinoma and awaiting transfer to a hospice facility.  To my astonishment, he asked my forgiveness for not responding to the treatment, and for causing me so much trouble.  I have long been haunted by the irony of his words, as I had felt so acutely throughout the course of his illness the limitations of the biomedical model and my own personal helplessness, and thus held myself responsible for his death, but didn't know how I could express my own wish to be forgiven.  

"When I learned his case would be presented at our Morbidity and Mortality Rounds,  I wanted to attend the conference to tell the story of his heart-wrenching apology in the face of my own sense of failure, but I feared my colleagues wouldn't welcome discussion of such an emotionally-charged issue.  My head spun with all my conflicting feelings, which finally took shape in the poem's repetitions, and also became reflected in the poem's title; though in the end I didn't attend the M&M conference, I felt that through the poem I was able to address what for me were the most important lessons he taught me, especially the power of empathy to combat the distancing we almost reflexively adopt toward our patients, and the necessity of confronting our own shortcomings."

Liam Corley is an Associate Professor of English at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he teaches American literature. A recent veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Dr. Corley has published essays on poetry and war in College English, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and War, Literature, & the Arts. His poetry has appeared in ChautauquaBadlandsA Few Lines MagazinePomona Valley Review, and the anthology, Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. He has just completed his first book-length collection of poems, Scout’s Honor.

Liam Corley said the central image of “At the Children’s Hospital” occurred to me during a visit to a doctor’s office when I happened to glance at a happy collection of pictures from former patients. How might parents and children with difficult prognoses view this display of smiling survivors? Conversations with my cousin and brother-in-law, both radiologists, furthered my reflections. The emotional core of the poem derives from my experiences as a bereaved father and a veteran, and I poured into this captured scene the grief and respect I have for the courage and suffering of children. 

I set the poem in Anaheim because of the tremendous dislocation I experienced when meeting my family at Disneyland during a Rest & Recuperation leave from Afghanistan and also because the sun as it westers from their Children’s Hospital sets behind “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

Sue Wootton is a New Zealand poet and writer, whose publications include three collections of poetry (Hourglass, Magnetic South and By Birdlight), a children’s book called Cloudcatcher, and, most recently, the short story collection ‘The Happiest Music on Earth’ (Rosa Mira Books 2013 rosamirabooks.com). A former physiotherapist, Sue has a long-standing interest in the intersection of science and the humanities generally, and poetry and medicine in particular. She’s currently enrolled in a Masters of Creative Writing through Massey University (NZ), and writing a novel with medical themes. Further information about Sue is available at suewootton.com   

On what inspired her to write ‘Wild’, Sue Wootton said "A friend was in the throes of tests and treatment for cancer. Technically, her care was excellent. Her body and its biochemistry were expertly mapped and monitored; treatment was successfully planned and carried out. And yet, and yet… this endless focus on the analysis of our component parts, and in turn of their components, and of the parts of their parts – all this can diminish a person.  All this can make a person disappear.  ‘Wild’ is the disappearing voice asserting itself: uncontrollable, complex, inter-related and essential."

2013 Hippocrates Prize is supported by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, a national medical society founded in 1918 and publisher of the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology, has been a major supporter of the Hippocrates Prize since its launch in 2009.

The Cardiovascular Research Trust, a charity founded in 1996, which promotes research and education for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulation. 

The National Association of Writers in Education supported the prize for the Young Poets category in the Hippocrates Awards.

Hippocrates Prize founders

Donald Singer is Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Warwick, and President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, the main patron of the Hippocrates Prize. His interests include research on discovery of new therapies, and public understanding of drugs, health and disease. 

He co-edits Pocket Prescriber, the 6th edition of which is published by Taylor & Francis this June, with a new Pocket Prescriber for Emergency Medicine due this summer.

Michael Hulse is a poet and translator of German literature, and teaches creative writing and comparative literature at the University of Warwick. He is also editor of The Warwick Review.

His latest publications are: The Secret History (poems, Arc) and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (translation of Rilke's novel, Penguin Classics). With Donald Singer he co-founded in 2009 the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. 

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