Lecturer wins international poetry prize

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Photograph: Lancaster University

Lancaster University lecturer in English Jane Draycott has been awarded first prize in the Open International Hippocrates Prize for poetry.

The Hippocrates Prize for poetry are for pieces which unite the disciplines of medicine and poetry. Draycott’s winning poem – entitled “The Return” – concerns the many abandoned sanatoria around the world.

Draycott was presented with her £5000 prize by the poet Philip Gross at the 2014 Hippocrates Awards at the close of the fifth International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine on Saturday, Week 3. Competition for the awards came from over 31 countries, totalling over 1,000 entries. Entries have come from as far Australia, the Netherlands, India, Kenya and Brazil. All winning and commended poems have been published in the 2014 Hippocrates Awards Anthology.

Other judges for the awards include barrister Robert Francis QC and Mumsnet editor Sarah Crown. Crown said: “Reading them awakened me to the stories behind the science, and I found myself in tears on more than one occasion. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a poem, and particularly to the winners.”

A lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing, Draycott was a Poetry Book Society “Next Generation” poet in 2004 and second prize-winner in the National Poetry Competition 2012.

The Hippocrates Initiative was founded in 2009 by clinical professor Donald Singer and Michael Hulse, a poet and translator. The Initiative began as the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine for an unpublished poem on a medical subject. The Hippocrates Initiative now also includes the international Hippocrates Society for Poetry and Medicine, the annual international symposia at which the Hippocrates awards are also presented, and The Hippocrates Press, an international research forum for poetry and medicine, as well as workshops, the first held in Venice in September 2013. The 2014 Young Poets Award were judged by poet Kit Wright. The International Hippocrates Prize for Young Poets was launched in 2012, also given for an unpublished poem on a medical theme.

The Hippocrates prize is believed to be one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem.

In an article in respected medical journal Lancet, Singer and Hulse argued for medicine and poetry to work together more frequently. “An initial scepticism is often evident when medicine and poetry are mentioned in the same breath,” Singer and Hulse suggest. “In part this arises from lingering preconceptions concerning the proper subject matter of poetry.”

The article concludes: “The response to the Prize and Symposium confirms our sense that the meeting of poetry and medicine is attracting growing national and international interest… Poetry and medicine—with all the beauty and all the harsh reality that either discipline can bring into our lives—are too big to belong to the ‘experts’, and must be shared by us all.”