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Six finalists selected for new poetry and medicine prize shortlist

A GP practice manager, NHS education adviser and distinguished New Zealand poet are among the six finalists shortlisted for the first Hippocrates Prize for poetry and medicine.

Judges broadcaster and journalist James Naughtie, NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, and poet Dannie Abse met earlier this month to decide the short list for the prize, which is organised with the support of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine and the University of Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Study.

The winners will be announced at a public international symposium on Poetry and Medicine, being held at the University of Warwick on April 10. The prize, which has a £15,000 award fund, attracted more than 1,600 entries from 31 countries including Colombia, Mexico, Fiji and Finland.

Judge Sir Bruce Keogh said: "Some people are concerned that, as health services become more complex and more reliant on technology there is a risk that we may lose sight of the personal and human dimension of care. The entries for the competition have shown that the emotional and creative side of the NHS is as strong as ever. The poems that I have had the pleasure of reading have reinforced my view that medicine is an art as well as a science and that there is poetry in its soul."

Dannie Abse said: “There was an astonishing amount of talent amongst National Health Service-related entries. The judges were also allowed great pleasure from the inventiveness, wit and poignancy of the more professional poets.”

James Naughtie added: “These poems were exhilarating to read. It was obvious that many people working in the NHS who're lucky enough to have the talent to express themselves tellingly in poetry have relished the opportunity. It was very moving to sense the struggles which have to be kept private but can be allowed to show through in poetry. And in the general poetry, there were - as readers will find - some powerful poems, with a lot of energy under the bonnet.  It's what we hoped for - and it is what we got. This is a great start for one of the most original prizes that has come along for a long time."

The Hippocrates Prize is offered in two categories: an ‘open’ category which anyone can enter, and an ‘NHS’ category open to National Health Service-related employees and health students. The first prize for the winning poem in each category is £5,000, with second and third prizes of £1,000 and £500.

In the ‘Open’ category, the 3 entrants short-listed as top prize-winners are Sian Hughes from Banbury, Pauline Stainer from Suffolk and CK Stead from Auckland, New Zealand.

Sian Hughes’ first book of poems, The Missing, appeared last year from Salt Publishing. Pauline Stainer is the author of nine collections of poetry from Bloodaxe Books, most recently Crossing the Snowline (2008). C. K. Stead is a distinguished writer with a substantial international reputation as poet, novelist and critic.

In the ‘NHS’ category, the entrants short-listed for the top three prizes are Wendy French and Alex Josephy from London and Edward Picot from Kent.  

Wendy French facilitates creative writing in health care and community settings. Her projects have resulted in three books by young people with mental illness. Wendy has two collections of poetry, the latest, Surely You Know This, published in 2009 by Tall-lighthouse press. Alex Josephy is an educationist working with NHS doctors in South East England. Her poems have been published in a number of magazines including Rialto and Smiths Knoll. Edward Picot manages a small General Practice. His interactive literature for computer media has been published by The Hyperliterature Exchange and Furtherfield.   

All of the winning poems, together with twenty commended poems in each category, will be published in a book to be launched at the prize-giving event at the Symposium on 10 April.

The 2010 Hippocrates Prize is organised by a joint team from the University of Warwick’s Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and the University’s Medical School. Organisers Professor of Therapeutics Donald Singer and Warwick Writing Programme’s Michael Hulse discuss the Prize, Poetry and Medicine in the Lancet of 20th March 

Notes to editors

For more information contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison,, 02476 150483, 07824 540863

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