Fragments of mortal life: the 2021 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine

Media Advisory – for immediate release

20 May 2021: Winners in the 2021 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine were announced by live webcast  on Wednesday 19th May to an international audience from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

First Prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Open Awards went to Fran Castan, former magazine editor, freelance writer and teacher of writing and literature from New York City, USA for Voice Mail. About her poem she said: "When my friend, the poet Siv Cedering, was suffering from pancreatic cancer, I would visit frequently. I wrote Voice Mail as witness to our experiences during her heroic struggle."

First Prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Awards went to Sophia Wilson from Dunedin in New Zealand for The Body Library. Sophia has a background in arts, medicine and psychiatry. 

She said: "The Body Library is a mélange of memories of the anatomy and pathology museums at Sydney University. I recall in particular the enormous sense of privilege, the bizarreness of human body parts being presented and objectified in this way, and the relief of exiting the hallowed rooms into daylight."

Judge Anna Jackson, poet, writer and academic from New Zealand, awarded the 2021 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for Poetry and Medicine to Yvanna Vien Tica from Metro Manila in the Philippines for Euphemisms for Cancer. 

About her poem Yvanna said: "My grandmother on my mother's side passed away due to liver cancer. I started to realize that for the family of cancer patients, every day is treasured and hard to let go. I tried to capture the feeling – the whole simultaneous struggle with grief, fear, helplessness, frustration, and desperation".

Poets from 37 countries had entered for the 2021 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. With an awards fund of £5500, this is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single unpublished poem.

The judges for the FPM-Hippocrates Open and Health Professional Awards were veteran New York Times reporter Anne Barnard from New York City, distinguished poets Keki Daruwalla from Delhi in India and Associate Professor in English Literature Anna Jackson from Wellington in New Zealand, and Neena Modi, paediatrician and Professor of Neonatal Medicine at Imperial College, London and President-Elect of the British Medical Association.  

The judges had agreed shortlists of 4 poets for the top places in the 2021 FPM-Hippocrates international Open Awards, 6 poets for the top places in the 2021 FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Awards and 5 poets for the 2021 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize.

The 2021 Hippocrates Prize is supported by medical charity the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine and healthy heart charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust.

Click here for details of all the winning and commended poets and the inspiration for their poems.

The Second Prize in the Open Awards was shared by writer, editor, and anthropologist Bryan Monte from Utrecht in The Netherlands for A lApollinaire and to bioscience PhD researcher Jack Cooper from Coventry for Measured Once, Cut Twice.

The Third Prize in the Open Awards went to Lesley Saunders from Slough in England for Fever, Winter, Particulars. Lesley works on collaborative projects with other poets as well as artists, sculptors, musicians, photographers and dancers.

Open winners: above - Fran Castan and Jack Cooper; 
below Bryan Monte and Lesley Saunders

The Second Prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Awards was shared by retired psychiatrist Roger Bloor from Newcastle in Staffordshire for Commedia dell'Arte and to Consultant Clinical Psychologist Khadija Rouf from Witney in Oxfordshire, England for Tacet.

Joint Third Prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Awards went to physician and Doctors Without Borders volunteer Andrew Rafik Azmy Dimitri from Marrickville, New South Wales in Australia, Consultant Neonatologist Elizabeth Osmond from Bower Ashton near Bristol in England, and former lab technician Joyce Turner from Rock Hill, South Carolina in the USA. 

Health Professional winners: above - Roger Bloor, Andrew Rafik Azmy Dimitri and Elizabeth Osmond; below - Khadija Rouf, Joyce Turner and Sophia Wilson.

Commendations were also agreed for entrants from Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the USA - 21 in the FPM-Hippocrates Open category and 22 in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Category.

Judge and New York Times senior reporter Anne Barnard said: “The outpouring of work was a joyous and painful reminder of how people around the world sought to create even during this difficult year. The poems reflected how life - and death - appeared to us with new vividness during the pandemic, and also how life and death literally went on alongside it: the more familiar ways of being sick, healing and dying of course did not stop for the global plague.”

She added: “I spend a lot of my time writing news stories, but there is always poetry somewhere in each one. It is inspiring to read the work of hands-on caregivers finding the poetry in their work, be it terrible, beautiful or both.”

Judge Neena Modi, Neonatal Professor at Imperial College, London and President-Elect of the British Medical Association, said: “The 2021 Hippocrates Poetry Prize shortlist reflects and arouses powerful emotions with sometimes lyrical, sometimes stark, reflections on loss, age, illness, and the cruelties of the human condition, underlined in the time of COVID”.

Judge Keki Daruwalla, one of India’s foremost poets and writers, said: “I am just proud to be passing on two tranches of poems, one by Health workers and another from Open sources. These are poems written during a pandemic raging across the globe and stem from differing moods, traversing a wide emotional landscape. What is essential for us who judged the poems, was whether poetry has been distilled from this bedlam of sickness, death, fear and despair. Most poems here pass this test with aplomb.”

The 4 other shortlisted Young Poets were Rhys Pearce from Hawick, Roxburghshire in Scotland for Mai ho'oka'awale (separating sickness), Rachel Brooks from Trumbull, Connecticut, USA for November Is When I Become, Elane Kim from Walnut Creek, California, USA for Origami and Olivia Yang from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA for still life: quarantine.

Judge Anna Jackson said: “Every entry for this award had something to commend it for – these were poems that took important matters into consideration with interesting approaches to form, lyrical beauty, original imagery, startling perspectives or beautiful design, and some of the best poems combined more than one of these elements.”

Screenshot 2021-05-20 at 15.15.16

Young Poets winner and shortlist: above - Rachel Brooks (L), Elane Kim and Rhys Pearce; below - Yvanna Vien Tica (L) and Olivia Yang

Co-organiser Donald Singer said: “We are delighted to have had such a strong international field of entries in the 12th year of the Hippocrates Prize. We congratulate all the winning and commended poets and thank all poets who entered. You can see details about all winning and commended poets and see a recording of the Awards readings and presentations on the Hippocrates Prize website:

The International Hippocrates Prize is awarded in three categories:

- a £1000 first prize, £500 second prize and £250 third prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Open category, which anyone in the world may enter. There are a further ~20 commendations in the Open category

- a £1000 first prize, £500 second prize and £250 third prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional category, which is open to Health Service employees, health students and those working in professional organisations anywhere in the world involved in education and training of health professional students and staff. There are a further ~20 commendations in the Health Professional category

- a £500 award for the Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for an unpublished poem in English on a medical theme. Entries are open to young poets from anywhere in the world aged 14 to 18 years. There are further commendations in the Young Poets category. There is no entry fee for the Young Poets prize.

The Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine – 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.

Notes for editors
For more on the Hippocrates Prize, including details of the winners and the winning poems, contact Donald Singer on

Support for the 2021 Hippocrates Prize

The 2021 FPM-Hippocrates Open Awards and FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Awards are supported by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. The FPM, founded in 1918, is a UK medical society which publishes the international journals the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology. 

The 2021 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.

2021 Hippocrates Prize Judges

Judges for the 2021 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine are veteran New York Times reporter Anne Barnard from New York City, distinguished poets Keki Daruwalla from Delhi in India and Associate Professor in English Literature Anna Jackson from Wellington in New Zealand, and Neena Modi, paediatrician and Professor of Neonatal Medicine at Imperial College, London and President-Elect of the British Medical Association. Anne Barnard, Keki Daruwalla and Professor Neena Modi were judges for the FPM-Hippocrates Open and Health Professional awards and Anna Jackson judged the Young Poets’ Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Click here for more on the 2021 judges.

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