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The Hippocrates Prize

Updated: Feb 26, 2022

For Poetry and Medicine 2022

with Emeritus Professor Michael Hulse

Picture: Hippocrates - inspiration for Medicine and Poetry

/ Credit: Past Medical History blog

Poetry and medicine are intriguing bed-fellows. The Hub's resident poet Audrey Ardern-Jones, a cancer specialist nurse by background, connects The Hub to the publishers of Storm Brain. A new book of medical essays and poetry on stroke and other disorders of the brain.

Says the blurb: "Already understood by Plato as the seat of thought and analysis, the brain has been an object of scientific study since the ancient Egyptians. Millions worldwide experience the ravages wrought when the brain suffers an attack from stroke or dementia, or other diseases.

The editors invited poets worldwide to donate poems on the brain and its afflictions. They are joined by leading medical professionals contributing information and advice to help understand stroke and avert, or manage its consequences. This companion volume to The Hippocrates Book of the Heart will give pleasure and helpful instruction."

You can listen to The Hub's conversation with publisher, poet and retired professor Michael Hulse by clicking on the link below. Scroll on past the Co-Founder credits to the post scripts for The Hub's fledgling efforts at poetry writing.



YouTube video: 2010 Hippocrates Prize Open Winner CK Stead reading "Ischaemia"

Storm Brain includes Ischaemia by renowned New Zealand poet, novelist and critic CK Stead. The poem is written in the voice of Roman poet Catullus, "a perennial voice, whose humour and humanity are obvious and enjoyable two thousand years later". Ischaemia tells of Stead's experience of suffering a stroke.

I think of writing a poem as putting oneself in the moment, at the moment - an action more comprehensive, intuitive and mysterious than mere thinking... - C. K. Stead

The poem won the Open category inaugural Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine in 2010. A stand out example of a major poet winning the prize with a poem inspired by their own experience of a medical condition.


The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine 2022

Image: New Zealand poet Anna Jackson, judge of the Young Poets’ prize in 2021

/ Credit: @HippoetPrize

The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine started with pharmacologist Donald Singer setting a poetry competition for medical professionals at University College Hospital Coventry. The competition attracted nearly 40 entrants prompting Singer to enlist Michael Hulse, a poetry professor at the University of Warwick, to help with the judging.

A now international prize attracts 1,000 worldwide entrants from 30 countries each year. The deadline for the Open, and Medical Professional and Medical Student categories, is 14th February 2022. The deadline for the Young Persons category (ages 14 to 18) is March 1st. You can enter the competition via the website.

Interestingly, this is the second Hub blog to name check the "Father of Medicine" following Dr Paul Walker's Not Hippocrates But Marx.


Listen to Michael

YouTube video: How Poetry Heals Us, Rafael Campo, TEDxCambridge

You can listen to The Hub's interview with Emeritus Professor Michael Hulse on The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine 2022 by clicking on the link below. A wide-ranging conversation covering the background to the prize and the overlap between hard science and the arts.

Including the search for clinical evidence of the benefits of poetry for patients. Echoed in the words of poet, physician and Hippocrates Prize winner Rafael Campo above and in More Words: Why Poetry is Good for Our Health. As well as The Healing Power of Poetry by William Sieghart, author of The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Mind, Heart and Soul. Sieghart is guest speaker at a Public Talk on Poetry on 14 February.

The poetry anthology by Médecins Sans Frontières doctor Andrew Dmitri referenced in the conversation below is Winter in Northern Iraq. In 2017 Dmitri managed an MSF hospital in Mosul, while the battle to oust ISIL raged nearby. His poem It Will Make a Fine Hospital won second in the 2017 Hippocrates Prize and was a Poem of the Week in The Guardian.


About the Co-Founders

Donald Singer and Michael Hulse co-founded the Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine in 2009.

Picture: Donald Singer / Credit:

Donald Singer is a clinical pharmacologist who has published over 200 articles, chapters and books on medicines, on cardiovascular research, prevention and treatment, and public understanding of health. Donald is an editor and contributor to The Hippocrates Book of the Heart (Hippocrates Press, 2017). He co-authors the prescribing safety guide Pocket Prescriber (Taylor & Francis) now in its 8th edition since 2004.

He is President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine and chairs the advisory board of the FPM’s journal Health Policy and Technology. He is also delegate to the European Medicines Agency for European Association of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, which supports scientific and educational exchange for over 4000 clinical pharmacologists from 34 European and other countries.

Picture: Michael Hulse / Credit:

Michael Hulse, described by Gwyneth Lewis as “a formidable poet”, has won firsts in the National Poetry Competition and the Bridport Prize (twice) and a Cholmondeley Award. Reading invitations have taken him to Canada, the US and Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, India, and several European countries – his audience for his solo event at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2012 numbered 700.

He has translated many books from the German (Goethe, Rilke, Sebald) and has worked with the Nobel Foundation, Goethe Institute, British Council and Günter Grass Foundation. His co-edited anthology The Twentieth Century in Poetry was described by The Guardian as “magnificent”, and his collection Half-Life (2013) was a Book of the Year in the Australian Book Review. Michael co-founded the Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine with Professor Donald Singer in 2009.


Post Script

Picture: Webster’s Falls, Hamilton, Ontario / Credit: Hamilton Conservation Authority/Flickr

The Hub's friend Niagara Nancy responds to The Hippocrates Prize blog from "City of Waterfalls" Hamilton, Ontario. Atop the lengthy Canada-US escarpment housing the Niagara Falls. By asking: "Are you submitting a poem?" Surprised, "Possibly," was the place holder reply.

The Hub wrote the blog to encourage other people. Poets, medics and people who maybe do not think of themselves as poetry writers. To have a go. Nancy's question was a fair challenge. But the muse was not there, until now. These two poems are the result.


Coronavirus nineteen.

Not something

That only happens

To other people.

After all.

The second line

On the Lateral Flow Test


What I already knew.

Last night’s delirium

Means I am

Covid positive.

What is it like?

Achey, head whoozey.

Day and night reality

Picture: The Hub's positive Lateral Flow Test / Credit: The Hub

Merging into one.

Sleeping and waking,

Waking and sleeping.

How did I lose my car?

Where is my car?

Am I on time

To log on

For that work call?

Hang on! It’s Sunday,

My car is in the drive.

Why would I have

A work call today?

What’s going on?!

Oh, this must be

My Covid reality.

by The Hub


Post Post Script

In the audio interview Michael Hulse describes being surprised at the lack of brain tumour entries for new poetry book Storm Brain, on diseases of the brain. Artist in residence Audrey Ardern-Jones, runs a Creative Writing online group for cancer patients at The Royal Marsden Hospital's Maggie's Centre.

Before finding out more The Hub felt inspired to write a brain tumour poem based on his own experience, below.

Brain Tumour – Pituitary Gland

Image: Pituitary Gland Highlighted / Credit: John Hopkins Medicine: Pituitary Tumours

Brain Tumour – Pituitary Gland

The GP composed

His face into a look

Of compassionate concern.

“This doesn’t look good,”

I said to myself.

“I am afraid,

I have some bad news.

You have a brain tumour,”

He said to me.

The world went quiet.

“The good news is

It’s benign*,” he added.

Inside, I shouted for joy.

“Ok, if it’s not malignant,

I can deal with that,”

Said my emotions

And thoughts, quietly.

So he couldn’t hear.

He started to tell me

About the pituitary gland.

I realised, I had

Heard the words.

But didn’t know

Where it was.

Or what it did.

Or how it could

Be affected

By a tumour.

Or even, what

A tumour was, really.

"The pituitary gland

Is the size of a pea

And controls your hormones.

It sits by the X

Of your optical nerves.

As your tumour

Grew, it started

To impinge

On your optical nerves.

Explaining your sight loss."

He described the

Operation and treatment

I would have.

But soon said: “That’s all

I really know. Knowing

You, my advice is

To Google it.

You’ll find out more

Than I can tell you.”

As I would. I left soon

After. Outside, the

Streets seemed

The same. Inside,

My world had changed.


by The Hub

* Before signing the consent forms for the first operation on my pituitary adenoma, the look on the neurosurgeon's face, confirmed verbally, reminded me "benign" did not describe my tumour. True, the tumour was not cancerous - at that moment.

Pituitary carcinomas, or pituitary gland cancers, are rare. 1 to 3% of pituitary tumours can be or can become malignant. Malignant or cancerous tumours can spread to other parts of the body. A slim risk, perhaps, but a risk nevertheless. As I read the sobering consent details, the GP's unwitting false comfort burst like a bubble.



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