2014 Hippocrates Open Commendations

Commended poems

Kirsten Andersen - The First Few Hours
Polly Atkin - The test
Richard Berlin - Professionalism Defined
Octavia Cade - Louis Pasteur
Timothy Craven - Neuroanatomy
Robin Ganderton - Regression
Sandy Goldbeck-Wood - Mess
Annie Greenberg - Emily
Debi Hamilton - My other lover
Victoria Kelly - Accidents
Victoria Kelly - The Beautiful Sadness
Lydia Kennaway - Pantoum: 11 p.m.
Lydia Kennaway - Trompe l’oeil
Shelley McAlister - Helmand Ward
Jane McLaughlin - All Clear
Hilary Menos - The Miracle of the Black Leg
Amy Miller - On Being Told My Brain Is the Normal Size
Robert Randolph - Of Silence
Lesley Saunders - Fray
Anoushka Sinha - Our Celebration
Paul Weidknecht - The Battles of Philadelphia

Commended poets and inspiration for their commended poems

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Kirsten Andersen’s poetry appears in The Believer, Tin House, Canteen Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, and other journals.  She is a 2014 nominee for both the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets, and has been awarded fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the Wallace Stegner Fellowship Program at Stanford University.  Her poetry manuscript The Big East was a recent finalist for The National Poetry Series.  Kirsten received her MFA in Creative Writing from New York University.  She lives in Massachusetts.

With respect to what inspired me to write The First Few Hours: Today pregnant women are phenomenally prepared and educated about childbirth, yet I was struck by the surreal nature of the experience, the physical brutality and lights-out-wild nature of childbirth and recovery.  I wanted to write a poem that articulated the strange, disembodied grasping of those early hours after giving birth.

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Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her debut poetry pamphlet bone song (Clitheroe: Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award, 2009. Her second pamphlet Shadow Dispatches (Bridgend: Seren, 2013) won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize, 2012. She currently teaches English and Creative Writing part-time at Lancaster University, where her doctoral research on Romantic legacies, literary tourism, poetry and place was based. 

Note on The Test: Over the last few years I have undergone various investigations to try and find the cause of some increasingly debilitating symptoms, as yet without much success. Some of the investigations have been more unpleasant than others. I started to write 'The Test' following the experience of having a gastroscopy without sedation in 2011. It developed into a kind of nightmare version of many tests combined, merged through common features, most importantly the difference between what is officially recorded or repeated about a procedure, and how the patient experiences it. 

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Richard M. Berlin is a poet and Senior Affiliate in Psychiatry at the University of  Massachusetts Medical School.  He has published two poetry collections, How JFK Killed My Father, and Secret Wounds (chosen as the best poetry book of 2011in the USA Book News Awards) and edited  Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment, and the Creative Process.  Berlin’s poetry has been published in numerous anthologies, literary journals, and medical journals including his column “Poetry of the Times,” which has been featured for fifteen years in Psychiatric Times. He practices psychiatry in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts.

His inspiration for Professionalism Defined: anger.

Octavia Cade is a PhD candidate in science communication at the University of Otago. She also writes speculative fiction - "Chemical Letters", her first collection of poetry and a science fiction narrative of a woman who wakes in the periodic table, is due out later this year from Popcorn Press. Her short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Cosmos, and Aurealis, amongst other places, and her first novella, "Trading Rosemary", was published earlier this year by Masque Books.

Inspiration: Louis Pasteur is from a collection of poems written as part of Octavia's PhD work. Carnival Microbial tells of a circus of microbes, of disease and contagion, and in the centre of the circus is the freak show: a caravan of microbiologists, trapped as objects of microbial fear and disgust and dreaming of their past lives, an island of sanity and science amidst infection. 

Timothy Craven
Originally from Stoke-on-Trent, Tim Craven was a neuroscientist working in pharmaceutical sales and living in London, until he was offered a scholarship to study poetry at Syracuse University, New York. In 2014, his poems will appear in The Lascaux Review, New Delta Review, Fjords Review, Sonora Review, CURA, Switchback Eleven Eleven, New Madrid, Natural Bridge and others. He sometimes tweets: @CravenTim

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He said: "The inspiration for Neuroanatomy came directly from my experience as a neuroscience undergraduate at the University of Manchester. Learning about the workings of the brain in the Stopford Building on Oxford Road was a rich and rewarding part of my life.”

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Robin Ganderton is a writer from Wales, currently at work on a collection of short stories.  You can follow him on Twitter @impropaganda.  

About Regression he said that he was motivated to write a poem about cancer after the death of a family friend, but the particular angle used in Regression came to him in a dream.  He apologises to the spirit of Coleridge that the dream was not opiate-induced.

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Annie Georgia Greenberg is a poet and writer living in New York City. Her poetry thesis, Goodbye Season was recognized with top prizes at Barnard College of Columbia University, where she studied under Saskia Hamilton and Joshua Bell. She attended the Iowa Young Writer's Workshop, the Kenyon Writers Conference, and has been recognized by The Kenyon Review, the Scholastic Foundation, and published in several local and national journals. Last year, she taught a poetry class through the Poetry Teachers of NYC organization. She is currently employed by Refinery29.com

Her poem Emily was inspired by a time of uncertainty while waiting on medical news.  

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Sandy Goldbeck-Wood  is a psychosomatic gynaecologist, poet, and international medical journal editor currently living in arctic Norway. She has published poems in anthologies, poetry magazines, medical journals and national newspapers, many of which explore medical language and experience. Several have received prizes or commendations since 2010. She has just completed a first full collection, as part of a doctorate exploring the relationships between medicine, poetry and narrative from a psychoanalytic standpoint (University of East Anglia,Tromsø). With research interests in biopsychosocial approaches to medicine and medical humanities, Sandy is a regular contributor to international medical journals, media commentator on sexual health, and member of international research networks in medical humanities. 

She said: "Mess is an attempt to capture the familiar alienation feeling of being a doctor on call in the dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish world of a hospital at night.  It´s inspired by NHS doctors messes I have not slept in for over nearly 20 years."

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Debi Hamilton is a psychologist and poet who lives in Melbourne, Australia.  She has only come to writing recently—a late bloomer, you might say.  Her first book of poetry was published in July 2013 by the Melbourne Poets Union.  Her poetry, short stories and non-fiction pieces have been published in various literary journals, poetry anthologies and on-line sites, and she has won a number of awards, including the 2013 Tasmanian Writers Prize.

On My other lover she said” "Among other things, Debi works with men and their partners dealing with the fallout of prostate cancer treatment.  She wonders whether this is why the universe decided to give her breast cancer last year—in order for her to experience first hand the grief and psychic dislocation caused by cancer treatment.  One of the ways she dealt with this was to write a lot of poems—My other lover came to her during one of those long nights."

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Victoria Kelly received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.Phil. in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin, where she was a United States Mitchell Scholar. Her poetry has appeared in Best American Poetry 2013Hopkins Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, and North American Review, among others. Her chapbook,Prayers of an American Wife, was published by Autumn House Press in 2013. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy.

About her two commendations in the 2014 Hippocrates Open Awards she said:

"The Accident is a true story. I was inspired to write this poem when I was driving with my husband not long after he came home from his deployment, and we were the witnesses to a terrible car accident. The car was smashed into the side of a tree and leaking gas, and my husband was able to turn off the car before the police arrived and may have prevented it from catching on fire. We found out afterward that the driver had been drunk.

The Beautiful Sadness is perhaps the most personal poem I have ever written. It was my way of dealing with consuming grief after I miscarried my first baby. At some point, I found, there is a way of looking at grief and depression as emotions so pure that they become beautiful. There is something redeeming in knowing one can feel emotions so strongly; it reassures us that we are human."

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Lydia Kennaway is a New Yorker living in Leeds. In 2010 she joined Ian Duhig, Julian Turner, Paul Adrian and Zaffar Kunial in the formation of a poets’ group in Leeds.  Lydia’s poems have appeared in publications in the US and the UK, including Pennine Platform and The Rialto. In 2011 Lydia took part in the Leeds Lieder Festival’s Composers + Poets Forum, collaborating with composer Steven Jackson on “Out of Memory”, a geek’s farewell to an obsolete computer. Work in music publishing, together with a history of visual impairment, led to Lydia’s invention of a new system for the production of braille music. Lydia is Director of Prima Vista Braille Music Services, providing scores for blind musicians.

About Pantoum: 11 PM she said: "A Pantoum is a strict form in which lines are repeated in a chaining pattern, giving the words a different nuance in the context of different quatrains. The form, with its repetition and shifting meanings, seemed the ideal vehicle for the depiction of a late-night conversation with someone suffering from dementia.

About Trompe l’oeil.  “Trompe l’oeil” or “fool the eye”, is an artist’s technique using tricks of perspective and hyper-realistic rendering to give the impression of three-dimensionality.  In this poem, the eyes are fooled by cataracts which create a view of the world that is both surreal and, to the poet, real.

Shelley McAlister is a lecturer in health and social care. She writes short fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction and has been published in The Rialto, Magma, iota, The Guardian and other publications. Her poetry collection, Sailing Under False Colours, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2004. She has been commended in two previous Hippocrates competitions and won second prize in the Open category in 2012.

About Helmand she said: "
I wrote the poem after my experience, in the past four years, of reconstructive surgery in a hospital where soldiers are treated following injuries in Afghanistan. The narrative poem is based on a true encounter and is part of a sequence of poems called Plastics and Burns.”

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Jane McLaughlin has published poetry in numerous magazines and anthologies and was longlisted in the National Poetry Competition 2012. She also writes short stories and will soon have a novella published on Kindle by Cinnamon Press. 

On why she wrote All Clear Jane said: “I know people who have recovered from cancer and others who have not.  This poem is meant to be a celebration for those who made it and a tribute to those who did not."

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Hilary Menos was born in 1964 in Luton, read PPE at Wadham College, Oxford, and has worked as a student union activist, journalist, food critic, and farmer. She now works with Exeter-based Quirk Theatre as dramaturge and script overseer. Her first collection, Berg (Seren, 2009), won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2010. Her second collection, Red Devon, was published by Seren in 2013. She is married with four sons aged 21, 19, 17 and seven. "Her poems bring as powerful a sense of farm, animal and land as the best work of Ted Hughes" - PN Review.

About The Miracle of the Black Leg  she said: "My son Linus was born with a congenital malformation of the ureters and was very ill with kidney infections as a baby. His kidney function was adequate as a child and young teenager but a couple of years ago we were told he would need a transplant. I spent the summer of 2013 going through tests and in January this year I gave him one of my kidneys. Organ transplantation has obviously been on my mind; if I were a religious person I would probably have prayed to Cosmas and Damian. (The operation was a success and we are both well.)

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Amy Miller has worked as a horse wrangler, electronic assembler, photographer's assistant, ad salesperson, book editor, and freelance writer. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, Northwest Review, The Poet’s Market, Rattle, Willow Springs, and ZYZZYVA. She won the Cultural Center of Cape Cod National Poetry competition, judged by Tony Hoagland, and was a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize and 49th Parallel Award. She lives in Ashland, Oregon, where she works as the publications manager for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and blogs about writing, disaster movies, and life at writers-island.blogspot.com.

About  On Being Told My Brain Is the Normal Size she said: "A few years ago, I underwent a brain MRI to determine the cause of some persistent dizziness. After waiting two very long days for the results, I sat down with my doctor and the first thing he said was, “Your brain looks fine. It’s the normal size.” It was a huge relief, but that was such an odd thing for him to lead with. In one of those surreal moments, I remembered a story I’d heard about Einstein—how, after his death, his brain was examined and found to be unusually large. Then it was cut into pieces and distributed among several scientists for study, one of whom reportedly kept his piece in a jar labeled “Big Al’s Brain.” And then my thoughts skipped over to Young Frankenstein and its “Abby Normal” brain in someone else’s body, and the poem spun itself from there, absurdity and empathy and joy all tangled together.

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Robert Randolph is Chair of the English Department of Waynesburg University, in Pennsylvania.  He has been a Fulbright Scholar in Finland and Greece, and has published poems in journals in the United States and internationally.  His book of poetry, Floating Girl (Angel of War), was published by Elixir Press.  In addition to teaching university classes, he pastors a small Presbyterian church on the banks of the Monongahela River.  He has a black belt in aikido and has worked as a counselor in a city mission for homeless addicts.

Of Silence:  My daughter Brittany passed away five months ago at the age of 32.  She loved horses and eventing, and had many trophies from dressage and jumping.  Her diagnosis, two years before, came as a complete surprise, yet at the time she was given only days, perhaps weeks, to live.  However, her fight went on for the next two years.  Her faith deepened as did her kindness toward others.  Her openness about her cancer and willingness to help others so stricken drew many to her.  She refused to be intimidated, and continued to set her own goals.  Unable to ride any more, she worked toward certification as a hippo-therapist working with children who were diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum.  Two weeks before she died, she had completed that coursework.  As I see it, Brittany was a fighter, a child of God, and my daughter, and this poem ties to say at least those things.

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Lesley Saunders has published five books of poetry, most recently Cloud Camera (Two Rivers Press 2012).  Lesley has also held several poetry residencies, including at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, and is involved in various collaborations with visual artists, a dancer and a composer.  A new collection, The Walls Have Angels – based on a residency at Acton Court, a beautiful house near Yate built for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn – is due out from Mulfran Press in the autumn of 2014.  www.lesleysaunders.org.uk

 On Inspiration for Fray she said: 'During last year’s Hippocrates symposium day at the Wellcome Collection, my attention was caught by a display cabinet containing a World War I kit for use in mustard gas attacks – eye-bath, liquid paraffin, saline solution, dusting powder, that sort of thing – which seemed so hopelessly inadequate to the scale of distress and damage suffered.  At the time I was trying to find a way of expressing my feelings about the life-threatening illnesses, and equally devastating treatments, experienced by two hugely courageous friends;  and the one idea began to inhabit the other…

Anoushka Sinha lived in India, Nigeria, Texas, and Vermont before settling—at least momentarily—in New York. She is a graduate student of Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English Literatures (with highest honors) and a minor in Biology from Middlebury College. In 2012 she received a full scholarship to attend the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Anoushka is fascinated by the role that stories play in experiences of illness. She is presently at work on her first novel.

She said: "The poem Our Celebration grew out of my experience of working at a pediatric cancer centre."

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Paul Weidknecht’s  stories can be found in Once Around the Sun: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales for All Seasons, the newest anthology by the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC. Previous publications include work in Clackamas Literary ReviewThe Los Angeles Review, Philadelphia Stories, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Raleigh Review, RosebudShenandoah, and Structo, among others, with work forthcoming in Gray’s Sporting Journal and Appalachia. He has been awarded a scholarship to The Norman Mailer Writers Colony and is winner of the Peter Barry Short Story Competition. He lives in New Jersey where he has recently completed a collection of short fiction.

 About The Battles of Philadelphia he said: "After his neck surgery, my father was transferred to a rehabilitation facility that specialized in treating spinal cord injuries, specifically, of young men who had suffered gunshot wounds. Perhaps people view these men as predators or prey, both or neither, and each classification might have some measure of validity, but I think the overriding feeling at that particular moment was one of pity. In staring down at a seventeen, or twenty, or twenty-two-year old sitting in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, any other emotion seemed to pale."    

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