Born in the NHS by Wendy French and Jane Kirwan

Born in the NHS. Wendy French and Jane Kirwan. Hippocrates Press
May 2013. ISBN 978-0-957271-2-2      £12.00 [GBP]

About Born in the NHS (See Reviews below)

Born in the NHS was conceived when Wendy French and Jane Kirwan were talking about their experiences working in the health service, and being brought up in medical families. People are only gradually becoming aware of the damage that will be done by privatising the NHS so they decided to put their personal account on record and monitor the government’s plans. They’ve included poetry, prose, memoir and facts. It isn’t a polemic about the NHS but an impressionistic account using aspects that have touched their experience. 

Wendy French has published two chapbooks with Tall Lighthouse, sky over bedlam (2002) and we have a little sister and she hath no breasts (2003), and two collections of poetry, Splintering the Dark (Rockingham Press, 2005) and surely you know this (Tall Lighthouse, 2009 – the title was taken from a Sappho fragment). She has won prizes in international competitions, including first prize in the NHS category of the Hippocrates Prize in 2010 and second prize in 2011. Wendy was head of the Maudsley and Bethlem Hospital School for fifteen years and now works with people with aphasia/dysphasia, helping them to recover their use of language through poetry. She also facilitates writing in other healthcare settings.

wf-and-jk med

Jane Kirwan’s poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in Great Britain and the Czech Republic where she lives half of the year. Her poetry collections Stealing the Eiffel Tower (1997) and The Man Who Sold Mirrors  (2003) and Second Exile, poems with prose by Ales Machacek (2010), were published by Rockingham Press and a Czech version Druhy Exil by Novela Bohemica.

She won an Arts Council Writers’ Award in 2002, has been commended and won prizes in many competitions including the National and Hippocrates and has appeared on Czech television and read at poetry festivals in the UK and abroad.


April 2014: Review by Dr Carole Cotter in the Bulletin of the Royal College of Pathologists

'... all sorts of revelations for those who are young enough to take the NHS so much for granted that they are happy to risk its demise.  ... anyone who has read Dr Zhivago studiously ignoring the poetry will be surprised at how much they enjoy the poetry presented as it is in this book.'

December 2013: Warwick Review - Lawrence Sail

''…imaginative and stimulating …"

"It is precisely the passionate commitment to the NHS that gives [coherence and cohesion] to this book, with all its variety.”

September 2013Acumen - William Oxley

"… a wonderful panoramic view of the work of the NHS [...] one of the most delightful medical books ever assembled". 

30 August 2013TLS

‘The alphabetical arrangement encourages the reader to dip into these poems; and there’s poetry inherent… in the pronouncement that A is for Abortion and Z is for Zygote…’

‘Beyond the political agenda…Jane Kirwan’s sense of humour brings life to the speaker of In Two Minds. “‘Shit’, you yell, stung/…/ From the lilac flutters a Red Admiral, flicker/of a second, then a third. How delicate and tough …/”. Wendy French’s Lunch-break, … captures the disturbed logic of an anorexic: “I headed for the canteen…surveyed the steaming bowls of curry, fish and stew, turned/towards the salad. Even the tomatoes seemed too much”.’

Summer 2013: London Grip - Norbert Hirschhorn

Norbert Hirschhorn reflects on a poetry and prose memoir that gives an inside view of the National Health Service at a time when it may be about to change forever.

‘…beautifully lyric poems…’ 

'Wendy French and Jane Kirwan give a passionate defence of the NHS. The section on ‘Special Needs’ is the most touching; that on ‘Violence’ (especially against women) the most necessary. As the authors indicate, alcohol and tobacco are the greatest threats to personal and  population health, costing the NHS billions of pounds each year.' 

‘Two splendid poems cap this eloquent book in an epilogue, providing metaphor for all that has gone before.’

'… poets needing a stringent dose of real world experience or medical workers needing a humanizing tincture of poetry. The ambition to reach both groups simultaneously is laudable …'

30 June 2013: Words Unlimited  - Pam Johnson 

'Born in the NHS … offers a fascinating slice of social history – families in sickness and health, the changing roles of health professionals – over the last seventy years, but it’s no dry academic study. The book – a collaboration between two poets, Wendy French and Jane Kirwan – is brimming with life, real people and their dramas. It is also thoughtful, reflective and packed with things you didn’t know but might now be glad you’ve found out. It’s also an excellent example of creative collaboration, what happens when two people talk to each other, how writing grows new writing… This is a book that every home should have.’  …more

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