2014 Hippocrates Commended NHS entries

Commended poems

Carole Bromley - Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia
Denise Bundred - Cyanotic Child
Denise Bundred - Tracing Words
Monica Corish - The Skill of Lipstick
Eliot North - The Milkweed Monarchs
Shehzad Latif - Spina Bifida
Valerie Laws - Pestering an eye research neuroscientist
Cheryl Moskowitz - Pernkopf’s Promise, after the Anatomy Lesson
Marie Naughton - Still
Kevin O’Donnell - A drug with a name that means sorrow
Daniel Racey - The Clearing
Karen Schofield - Breathless
Ellen Storm - Walk
Rosa Tohill - Hydrography of the Heart
Tricia Torrington - Bodies
Kate Venables - Bookshelf
Jeremy Walker - On Being a Psychiatric Patient
Emily Wills - Considering the Predictive Value of the Risk Assessment Score
Chris Woods - Crick and Watson's Double Helix
Timothy Young - Magnetic Resonance

Commended poets and inspiration for their commended poems

carole-bromley med

Carole Bromley lives in York where she tutors in Creative Writing for the University of York. She formerly worked for a general practice. She has been widely published in magazines and anthologies and has won a number of prizes, including the Bridport. Twice a winner in The Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition, she has two pamphlets and a first collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, with Smith/Doorstop. Carole runs the Poetry Society's York Stanza group and writes a regular poetry blog at www.yorkmix.com.

I wrote the poem ‘Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia' after visiting a close friend who was suffering from this form of leukaemia. Sadly, my friend also developed lymphoma and, after a three year struggle, is now receiving palliative care.

denise-bundred med-2

Denise Bundred trained as a paediatrician in Cape Town and as paediatric cardiologist in Liverpool.  In 2011 she completed an MA in Writing. She had poems commended and published in The Hippocrates Prize Anthology in 2012 and 2013.  In October 2013 she read with Rebecca Goss at the Manchester Literature Festival.  She has four poems in 'The Book of Love and Loss' (eds. J Hall and R.V. Bailey) which will be published this year.  

 In 'Cyanotic Child' I wanted to contrast Paul Klee's child-like images of the heart with the intricacy of its structure and function which constantly challenges the cardiologist. The endocardium is the inner surface of the heart. When the surgeon opens the heart, theatre lights reflecting on the shiny endocardium provide a powerful image which has crept into a few of my poems.

About Tracing Words:  "I wrote this poem after hearing of a man who lost the power to speak after a stroke, but could still read. He taught himself to speak again by tracing letters with his tongue on the back of his teeth.  Reading the words enabled him to speak them. I wrote it as a specular poem because the slightly disjointed phrases when I reversed the lines seemed to echo the effect of his stroke."

monica-corish med

Monica Corish  lives in Co Leitrim in Ireland. She trained as a nurse in London in 1989 and worked for many years in the Primary Health Care sector in Sudan, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Angola. Her poetry has been published widely in literary journals in Ireland and the UK; she has received writing bursaries from the Arts Council, ADAI, and Leitrim Arts Office; her first collection, Slow Mysteries, was published by Doghouse Books in 2012; and she is currently working on a second collection, inspired by the experience of nursing her mother when she was dying with cancer.

 About her  inspiration for The Skill of Lipstick Monica said: "My mother died of lung cancer in November 2011. Over the course of six months, secondaries in her brain corroded her personality, abilities and memory. The poem describes one particular moment of loss."

shehzad-latif-2 med

Shehzad Latif is a full time surgeon, born and bred in Pakistan he was always intrigued by English literature, and poetry. His first poem was about the British Council Library in Rawalpindi his hometown, which was his sanctuary as a student. He moved to the UK and to Swansea in Wales in 2007. His passion for poetry led him to Dylan Thomas Centre and rekindled his first love. He has been influenced by contemporary poets and writers specially Dannie Abse, Miroslav Holub (both doctors) and local Swansea poet, historian and Professor of creative writing Nigel Jenkins. Shehzad likes to write about his experiences in his field of work and is influenced by people, places and events, which catch his imagination. He says that the busier he is at work, the more creative his mind becomes. He was also commended in the 2013 Hippocrates prize for poetry and medicine. He is aspiring to be published and loves writing poetry in its pure form.

He said: "The poem Spina Bifida, was inspired from very personal experience. We were blessed with twins and the younger of the two was born with this condition. He is a lovely child and so full of life. My wife kept asking me to write a poem about him and I found it an arduous task. Only recently he was involved in a roadside accident and we experienced the most difficult time we could have imagined.  Moved by his courage and innocent questions, I finally picked up the pen and wrote this poem. My wife always believed it would win me a prize."

v-laws-comm med

Valerie Laws (www.valerielaws.com) is a poet, performer, crime novelist, playwright (12 books, 12 commissioned stage and radio plays) and sci-art installation specialist. Her recent work arises from Residencies including a London Pathology Museum, Anatomy Department (KCL), Leeds Hospitals, and at Newcastle University working with pathologists and neuroscientists. Awards include Wellcome Trust Arts Award, two Northern Writers’ Awards, twice prizewinner in National Poetry Competition. Devises new poetic forms and science-themed poetry installations and commissions including the infamous Arts Council–funded Quantum Sheep, spray-painting haiku onto live sheep. She featured in BBC2’s Why Poetry Matters, with Griff Rhys Jones, and live at Royal Festival Hall, London. Performs worldwide.

On Inspiration for her poem Pestering an eye research neuroscientist she said:  'I've been working as Writer in Residence for some years with neuroscientists and pathologists. Caring for my mother before she died of Alzheimer's, I noticed a change in her eyes. I asked an expert on eyes and the brain about this - at first she wasn't sure but further research confirmed there are changes in the eyes physically related to brain cell changes. It also made me wonder about how much in our culture we rely on eyes in 'reading' other people and expressing or interpreting emotion - but how can an eyeball do this, apart from dilation of pupils of course. She said it was actually the face around the eyes which conveys emotion, though we feel convinced it is the eyes themselves. I spent quite a lot of my research asking difficult questions, and the scientists concerned always responded gracefully!

cheryl-moskowitz-pic med

Cheryl Moskowitz is a prize-winning poet and novelist. Trained in Dramatherapy and Psychodynamic Counselling, she works as a clinical supervisor and facilitates writing projects in a wide variety of health, education and social care settings. She is one of the co-founders of the national organization for words and well-being, LAPIDUS, and taught on the Creative Writing and Personal Development MA at Sussex University from 1996 to 2010. Her poetry is widely published in literary journals and she has contributed to several academic publications on her methods and work as a practitioner. Her own books include the novel, Wyoming Trail (Granta 1998), poetry collection The Girl Is Smiling (Circle Time Press 2012) and a book of children’s poetry, Can It Be About Me? (Frances Lincoln 2012).

Note on the poem, Pernkopf’s Promise, After the Anatomy Lesson: Eduard Pernkopf (1888–1955) had early ambitions to be a musician  however the sudden death of his father, a village doctor, led him to pursue medicine instead. He became Professor of Anatomy at the University of Vienna and creator of the classic Atlas of Topographical and Applied Human Anatomy (Topographische Anatomie des Menschen). It is almost certain that Pernkopf and the artists working for him, all members of the Nazi Party, used concentration camp inmates or condemned political prisoners as their subjects. I wanted to place Pernkopf’s work alongside Rembrandt’s famous paintingThe Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632), both undoubtedly works of artistic and scientific genius, in order to explore difficult questions around the ethics of anatomy.  

r-mary-naughton med

Marie Naughton’s  poems have appeared in magazines including Mslexia, Modern Poetry in Translation, The Dark Horse and Crannog. Others have been placed in competitions, in 2012 she won the Cafe Writers competition.  She was recently awarded a Distinction for her MA in Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing at Manchester University. She is a psychotherapist and a counsellor in a high school.

She said: "I wrote 'Still' a few years ago while I was attending an excellent poetry class. The task was to write a poem around the theme 'cold'. I was surprised at how the poem revealed itself and took shape quite rapidly. I found myself writing about the difficulty of finding words to describe painful experiences."

Eliot North is a GP and a writer working in the North East. She blogs about medicine, health and creativity at Chekhovwasadoctor.wordpress.com. Studying creative writing at Newcastle University on her days off has given her the confidence to write about her experience of studying medicine and working as a doctor in both the U.K. and New Zealand. Eliot has recently won a new collaboration bursary from the Artists Information Company with artist Rachael Allen to work on their collaborative project ‘Lessons in Anatomy: dissecting medicine and health through visual and literary arts collaboration.’ @eliot_north

She said: 'I was inspired to write the poem ‘The Milkweed Monarchs’ after working as a junior doctor in Paediatrics in New Zealand. The parents of a patient brought in Milkweed plants with tiny caterpillars on to entertain her (and all the staff too.) The memory of those caterpillars turning into Monarch butterflies on the children’s ward whilst the patient recovered is something that will always stay with me.”

odonnell-kevin med

Kevin O’Donnell is a Nurse Educator in Intensive Care in New Zealand. He has been writing for five years and completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University in 2013. He is addicted to building mountain bike tracks.

About A drug with a name that means sorrow he said: “Contrary to belief, ICU nursing is full of repetition and sameness. Still at times we are confronted with experiences that are both a privilege and a horror. Watching a woman vomit black charcoal over white sheets after a overdose in an indifferent London hospital is one thing, the norm. To ring the home phone number and have her bright breezy voice answer was... Beyond what training , experience could fathom. It was over ten years ago but when recalled I wrote it easily in one sitting. I hoped not to come across as judgmental."

daniel-racey-r med

Daniel Racey  is a Scot who has  settled on Dartmoor.  He has been an ecologist, a primary school teacher and now is a psychiatrist.  He said: “the NHS makes me hugely proud and it is still a summit of human solidarity and compassion.  Everyday, I learn so much from my patients and my colleagues. As for poetry,  it jangles my senses, helps me make sense of the strangeness of being a human and gives me a sense of connection with others. To be recognised by an initiative which uses poetry to nourish the NHS makes me more proud of this commendation than any academic achievement. I must say a personal thank you to Norman MacCaig for unlocking the treasure trove many years ago."

On how his poem The clearing came about he said: "I had been on-call overnight, assessing people who had attempted suicide by overdosing. A thunderstorm had  boiled through the night. When I left the emergency department, the world seemed newborn. The poem started as an attempt to capture that experience and, as poems do, developed a life of its own. It became something about openness and the act of listening." 

r-karen-schofield med

Karen Patricia Schofield studied medicine at Sheffield University and trained in general medicine before specialising in haematology. Apart from a few years at the Christie Hospital where she completed a science-based PhD, sheI has worked in the NHS as a haematologist, most recently as a consultant at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire. She retired from the NHS at the end of 2012 and has a part time teaching post at Keele University Medical School. She has always read poetry and at last has time to write it, encouraged by joining her local Stoke Stanza group. Her poems are often based on clinical encounters and the different perspectives of doctors and patients.

Karen said: "My poem “Breathless” is based on the idea of someone who helps a loved one with probable end-stage respiratory disease by attempting a surreptitious kiss of life which then triggers the memory of a different sort of kiss.

ellen-storm-fff med-2

Dr Ellen Storm has had poems published in various magazines, including Assent, The Interpreter’s House, The Reader, Frogmore Papers, Orbis and The Warwick Review. She has one forthcoming in Obsessed with Pipework, has recently contributed two to the online collaborative arts project The Egg, The Womb, The Head and The Moon (weeks 27 and 30), and will be contributing to the forthcoming Writing Motherhood project. She was commended in the 2013 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.

Ellen is training in Paediatrics and Child Health in Liverpool, and is the mother of three-year-old twin girls. She blogs about poetry at: www.ellenstorm.com, and about nutrition (her other passion) at: www.kidseatplants.com. She tweets @drellenstorm and @kidseatplants.

The poem Walk is still quite raw for me, as it describes a relatively recent experience I had with a family member who is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia. I often find that good poems emerge at collision points between opposing forces: paradigms, world-views etc. So it was with this one: the paradox was that the patient’s “best interests” were deemed to be in opposition to what he was repeatedly stating that he wanted.

Rosa (Tohill) O'Kane, was born in Magherafelt, County Derry and now lives in Canberra, Australia where she works as a GP. While a medical student at Leicester University in 1983, she won the Nuffield Provincial Trust's Essay Competition entitled Communication in Medicine. She took up the pen again a few years ago to write poetry. Her Birthday TXT poem was selected in the 2013 Poetry In ACTION initiative to celebrate the Canberra Centenary.

She said: "The inspiration for  Hydrography of the Heart was my brother in law's description of his experience of an angiogram, the idea of the heart as a repository of memories, love and belonging, melded with my observations of the natural landscape in Ireland where we can easily be  in close proximity to rivers returning to their source, sparked this poem."

tricia-torrington med

Tricia Torrington trained as a nurse in Portsmouth. She has been working in medical research for over 35 years. She has been widely published and has been a finalist in many poetry competitions. Her first collection, The Opium Fish, was published in 2010 by Flarestack. She also works as a printmaker and photographer, and is married to the poet, Michael Henry.


kate venables med

Kate Venables is a physician, working as an academic at the University of Oxford.  She is also enrolled in the University’s creative writing programme.  Other work has appeared in Flash, Lighthouse, and The Lake.

What inspired the poem I have some of my father’s medical textbooks – he qualified in Edinburgh during the Second World War and then joined the RAMC and went to Burma in a Field Surgical Unit.  After the War he returned to his home in Yorkshire to work as an anaesthetist in the new NHS.  He died young as part of the nineteen-fifties coronary artery disease epidemic.  I always knew I wanted to follow him into medicine, and have never regretted it.  I realised that I could create this story of a father-daughter medical lineage from selected book titles and a few other artefacts.  So, it’s a ‘list poem’, almost a ‘found poem’, based on the view from my desk.

Jeremy Walker is a social worker by profession and works for two inner London mental health Trusts as well as his union and a mental health charity in south London.  He also runs a creative writing group for mental health service users.  He has recently finished a memoir about his working life and published a slim volume of aphorisms.  He has his own mental health website which will be re-launched later in the year and hopes to devote more time to  this and developing his poetic style, while continuing to work in the NHS because this keeps him both grounded and inspired.

He said: "My poem, On Being a Psychiatric Patient, was the by-product of my conversations with the many hundreds of sectioned or detained patients I met over the nine years I worked for something called the Mental Health Act Commission.  In a way, they spoke with a universal voice which touched on, often in agonised and deeply puzzled ways, the double-bind which they felt trapped in.  The poem is an attempt to spell this out.  It may seem like an attack on professionals or the system but really it is a plea for a much more democratic relationship between professionals and patients, and the use of a different discourse or language. If these could be achieved, the double-bind would melt away."

Emily Wills has two collections, Diverting the Sea (2000) and Developing the Negative (2008), and a forthcoming pamphlet, all published by The Rialto. She has been shortlisted for the Manchester poetry prize, and won the Frogmore prize in 2012 and 2013. She lives in Gloucestershire where she works as a GP.

About Considering the Predictive Value of the Risk Assessment Score she said. "This poem edges around the huge unspoken tensions generated by recurrent self harm. The title reflects my concern that assessment tools and protocols in health care are often revered as if they are truths, but are not always helpful for the ‘you’ or ‘I’ at the centre of the story."

chris-photo-5 med

Chris Woods is currently working as a GP locum in Bolton and finding more time to write. He has two collections of poetry Recovery, from Enitharmon Press and Dangerous Driving, from Comma Press. 

He said: "The inspiration for the poem Crick and Watson's Double Helix came after a visit to Cambridge and an excellent pint of beer in the Eagle where in February 1953 Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson had discovered the structure of DNA." 

tim-young med

Timothy Young is a Consultant Neurologist working at Queen Square and The Whittington in London. He enjoys attempting to write poetry on medical subjects. He won the 1995 Student BMJ poetry competition with ‘Sharp turn ahead’ and was commended in the NHS category of the Hippocrates Poetry prize in 2011and 2014.

He said: "My 2014 commended poem Magnetic resonance was based on my own experience being wedged in an MRI scanner to have my shoulder scanned. I am claustrophobic and I think imagination can be a blessing when trying to think about anything else but the enclosed space inside the scanner!"

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