Winning poem takes a doctor’s life as its inspiration

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 13 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2023
  1. Helen Mooney
  1. 1London

    The winners of the first annual Hippocrates prize for a poem on a medical subject have been announced.

    Wendy French, who facilitates creative writing in healthcare and community settings, won the prize in the competition’s NHS category for her poem It’s About a Man, which details the life of a doctor.

    Ms French said: “I’m thrilled to have won the NHS section of this prize, as my father was one of the first doctors to work for the NHS when it was formed in 1947. Since then people from three generations of my family have been associated with the service. The winning poem was inspired by my father.”

    Ms French’s previous projects include a number of books by young people with mental illness. She has also published two collections of poetry.

    Meanwhile the New Zealand poet CK Stead took the top prize in the competition’s open category for his poem Ischaemia.

    Mr Stead said: “I wrote the poem in response to the announcement of the award. Five years ago I had suffered what in retrospect can be seen as a minor, in terms of lasting effects, but nonetheless dangerous stroke. Over many years I have written poems in the persona of Catullus, so the Roman poet has become as much a fictional as an historical character, one to whom I have ready recourse in my writing.

    “I decided therefore that Catullus would suffer the stroke I suffered, with the same effects, and that he would recover in the same way.”

    Each winner was awarded £5000 (€5700; $7700) at an international symposium on poetry and medicine. The prize was judged by the broadcaster and journalist James Naughtie, the medical director of the NHS, Bruce Keogh, and the poet Dannie Abse.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2023

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