Creativity and compassion: winners of the 2018 FPM Hippocrates Open and Health Professional Prize for Poetry and Medicine

Joanne Key from England has been announced by judge Mark Doty as the winner of the 2018 FPM Hippocrates Open Prize for Poetry and Medicine at an awards ceremony at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Her winning poem was Colony which concerned the distress of her father during his final illness. 

Mark Doty also announced Inez Garzaniti from Pontiac in the USA as the winner of the 2018 FPM Hippocrates Open Prize for Poetry and Medicine for Cranial Nerve Shadowbox which was inspired by the functions and dysfunctions of cranial nerves.

Taylor Fang from Logan, Utah, USA was announced by judge Alisha Kaplan as the winner of the 2018 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for Poetry and Medicine at the awards ceremony at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Her winning poem was Letter to Body Made Hollow and she was also shortlisted for On the Evolution of Cancer.

With an awards fund of £5500 the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single unpublished poem. The 2018 Hippocrates Prize is supported by medical charity the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine and the healthy heart charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust.

Entries for the 2018 Hippocrates prize were received from 37 countries and from 5 continents.

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Donald Singer, judge Mark Doty, FPM Health Professional winner Inez Garzaniti, judge Alisha Kaplan, Michael Hulse and Rafael Campo at the awards event in Chicago

The judges - Carol Rumens from Bangor in North Wales, Peter Goldsworthy from Adelaide in Australia and Mark Doty from New York City agreed 4 shortlisted poets for the Health Professional Prize and a further 4 shortlisted poets for the Open Prize.  

Joanne Key

FPM Hippocrates Open Prize winner Joanne Key

Also competing for the FPM Hippocrates Open Prize were Sarah Ann Leavesley from Droitwich in England who was awarded 2nd Prize for At breaking point, and jointly sharing the 3rd Prize Aniqah Choudhri from Didsbury in England for Repeat Prescriptions and Raphael Dagold from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan for Pharmacology.

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Hippocrates Young Poet Prize winner Taylor Fang

Also the running for the FPM Hippocrates Health Professional Prize were surgeon Stephen Harvey from Nashville in the USA who was awarded 2nd Prize for The Thirteenth Floor, and sharing the 3rd Prize Maria Ji from Onehunga in New Zealand for Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Patient and Emma Storr from Leeds in England for Six Week Check.

Commendations were also agreed for entrants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, England, Northern Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the USA - 19 in the Open category and 20 in the Health Professional Category.

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Commended poets with judges and organisers in Chicago 

Judge Carol Rumens said: “A good poem is like a blood transfusion. It replenishes the body of words, the language in which the poem is written. These prize-winning and commended poems sometimes highlight the metaphorical possibilities of a scientific vocabulary: one of the valuable aspects of the Hippocrates Prize is that it encourages such creative cross-fertilisation. But they also demonstrate that the borders stereotypically perceived between art and science cease to matter in the heat of imaginative and lived engagement.“

She added: “The health professionals write with empathy and a sense of mystery, the ‘open category’ writers summon descriptive precision.  Their forms are rarely traditional, but grow organically from the subject or the experience. So these poems celebrate language itself, while relocating bodily events to a less time-haunted region, and transforming some of the loneliest  aspects of human experience to the most vividly connective.“

Judge Mark Doty said: “Caring for the marvelous and fragile thing a human body is, those who work in the healing professions live in intimate relation with what it is to be alive. Every day they face our vulnerability, as well as their own.  That’s why so many have second lives as poets; writing can be a way to keep their own hearts open, giving form to feeling they must often hold at bay while they attend to what patients need.”

He added: ”The humane and moving work shortlisted for the Hippocrates Poetry Prizes testify to the power of poetry to help us to negotiate the difficult. In carefully crafted, artful language, they demonstrate how the wellspring of compassion renews itself In us again and again.” 

Judge Peter Goldsworthy said: ”Sometimes pus, sometimes a poem…but always pain,’ the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai wrote, a near-perfect poetic distillation of the costs of creativity, at least ‘sometimes’    Of course not all great art has its genesis in pain, and not all pain – not even a fraction – leads to the partial consolations of art.  But if lancing an abscess is the surest way to healing,  poetry can  offer that same cleansing of emotional wounds - at least, again, ‘sometimes’.   As can humour;  and jokes are a species of poem, sharing its same search for precision, density, rhythm, timing - perfection.” 

He added: ”There are many species of  poem  here - dark, poignant, epigrammatic  celebratory, funny - which caused me many headaches when judging their merits.  How to separate apples from oranges - and grapes, and melons, and durians?   In the end I can only applaud the  endless capacity of  the poets  - and the language -  for creativity, for compassion, for generosity, for courage under fire - and all their various subspecies of humour.”

See more on the shortlisted and commended poets on the Hippocrates Poetry website.

The winners were announced at the 2018 Hippocrates Awards ceremony at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago from 4pm on Friday 11th May when the Hippocrates Awards Anthology was launched. There is also a reading at the Poetry Foundation by Mark Doty from 7pm on Thursday 10th May, an accompanying conference on poetry and medicine that morning and afternoon at Northwestern University in Chicago, and a workshop on poetry, medicine and art at Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday evening, 11th May.

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

Since it was launched in 2010, the Hippocrates Prize has attracted over 8000 entries from over 60 countries, from the Americas to Fiji and from Finland to Australasia.


Notes for editors
For photos of finalists, biographies and extracts of their poems, call 07494 450805  or email

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 relationship between medicine and poetry.

The 2018 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize 

More on support for the 2018 Hippocrates Awards for Poetry and Medicine

The 2018 Hippocrates Open Awards and Health Professional Awards are supported by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. The FPM is a UK medical society founded in 1918, which publishes the international journals the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology. 

The 2018 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize is supported by the Cardiovascular Research Trust, a healthy heart charity founded in 1996, which promotes research and education for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulation. The charity has a particular interest in avoiding preventable heart disease through educating school students.

The 9th Annual Symposium on Poetry and Medicine is supported by:

onion © Hippocrates initiative 2012: