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Monday, 10 April 2017

Poetry for mind, body and soul: shortlists announced for the 2017 Hippocrates Prize

Poets from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, the USA and the UK are among finalists for major awards in this year’s Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine

Shortlisted in the Health Profession category are Kathy D’Arcy from Cork, Ireland, who has worked as a doctor and youth worker, Medical Social Worker Iora Dawes from Mansfield in England, and respiratory physician Andrew Dimitri from Sydney, Australia, who is also a field doctor for the international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières. 

Competing for the top award in the Open category are poets Claire Collison from London, England, Rosie Jackson from Somerset in England and Alisha Kaplan from Toronto in Canada.

In the running for the £500 Young Poet Award are from the USA, Rachel Litchman, Michigan, Joyce Zhou, Illinois, and Erin O'Malley, Pennsylvania; from the UK Roberta Maia Sher, London and Izzy Wythe, Oundle; and from Singapore Vernon Yian.

The judges also agreed a record twenty-nine commendations in the Health Professional category, reflecting the high quality of entries, with a further sixteen poems commended in the Open category, from poets from around the world: the UK, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines and Switzerland.

The winners will be announced at Harvard on Saturday 6th May at an international symposium on poetry and medicine. There is still time to register for the Awards ceremony and the symposium on 6th May and for the associated event at the Boston Museum of Fine Art on ‘Poetry and Training the Eye’ on Friday 5th May.

The Hippocrates Prize attracts health professionals and established poets alike, with entries this year from over 30 countries. This year, themes have ranged from illness in children to recovery from depression and from cancer to treating victims in conflict zones.

The judges for the 2017 Hippocrates Awards are paediatrician and Emmy Award-winning producer of ER, Neal Baer; celebrated poet and Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard, Jorie Graham; Scottish Makar (National Poet) and novelist, Jackie Kay; and New York Professor of Psychiatry and poet, Owen Lewis. The Young Poet category (for writers aged fourteen to eighteen) was judged by New York writer and teacher Maya Catherine Popa.

Neal Baer observed: ”Here the ordinary becomes extraordinary. These poems relate with emotional depth and in fresh and compelling ways what it means to be healthy and sick."

Jorie Graham commented: “That so much raw suffering, clear-sighted understanding of the vicissitudes of fate, and the perhaps lucky accidents of medical knowledge, or chance, or compassion, could find their way through formal intelligence to these pages is barely short of a miracle. It is certainly a testament to the power of the imagination to heal, console, elegize and cry out against the terrible demands of life and destiny. It is hard to forget these voices once one inhabits their particular circumstances, their messages of belief and profound trust in the consolations of beauty.” 

Owen Lewis too was impressed by the skill and compassion shown in the poems: “As a poet and a physician, reading through the entries as one of the judges for this year’s Hippocrates Prize was a real page-turner. This exciting and moving array of poems speaks to the experiences of illness and health, of patient and healer. The poems are written with both immediacy and reflection, with craft and heart-felt expression.”

Scottish National Poet Jackie Kay said: “What an inspiring competition to be part of. The Hippocrates Prize is a mind, body and soul competition. One minute you’re reading a poem from a patient, the next a doctor, the next a nurse, the next a porter, the next a friend, the next a family member. One minute you’re reading a poem set in a standard hospital in the UK, the next a makeshift hospital in Syria. One minute you’re thinking about mental anguish and anxiety, the next death and cancer." 

She added: "The poems are powerful, funny, moving, inspiring, thought-provoking. They show us everything we have in common. They help us with grief and grieving. But above all they make us cherish life, our health, our minutes and our hours. I’d keep these poems about me as my companions. They radiate light.”

“I am very pleased to be supporting this year’s Hippocrates Prize for poetry and medicine,” said patron of the awards Professor Anthony Fretwell-Downing (pictured). “These international awards are an excellent way to encourage people from around the world to take an interest in their health through poetry, as shown this year by entries from over 30 countries. The poems resonate with my sense of creativity.”

The Hippocrates Prize and this year's awards symposium are supported by the healthy heart charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust, philanthropist Professor Anthony Fretwell-Downing, the Hippocrates Initiative and the Arts and Humanities Initiative of Harvard Medical School.

With a prize fund of £6000 /~ USD 7500 for winning and commended poems, the Hippocrates Prize is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem. In its 8 years, the Hippocrates Prize has attracted over 8000 entries from over 60 countries, from the Americas to Fiji and Finland to Australasia. 

Notes for editors

For more on the shortlisted poets and the 2017 Hippocrates Awards,
contact +44 7494 450 805 or +1 617 432 5693 or email

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.