Just ask William Carlos Williams (or Jenna Lê), medicine and poetry have long fed one another, but perhaps it takes a little competition to draw the poet out of the physician. Yesterday the New York Times Well blog reported on the noteworthy response to a poetry contest held last spring for students of the Yale University School of Medicine and the University College London (UCL) Medical School.
The response by would-be physicians in the two sponsor programs exceeded the expectations of the judges, a panel of doctors of medicine and the humanities who anticipated receiving a handful of entries—more than one hundred sixty entries came in. “It was rare in my generation for doctors to write poems," contest organizer John Martin, who teaches cardiovascular medicine at UCL, told the Times, "but I think there’s a new interest in poetry and how it can arise from what we do."
There's no doubt the fifteen-hundred-dollar first prize, funded by a donation from an anonymous patient, provided an added dose of inspiration. Impressed by the caliber of submissions, the judges—with the help of an additional prize contribution from one of their own—chose to award the prize to two poet-physicians, UCL students Gabrielle Gascoigne for "Mastectomy" and Daphne Tan for "Apices." Noah Capurso of Yale received a three-hundred-dollar runner-up prize for "Aphasia."
The Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, based in London, also runs a poetry contest for physicians and medical students in the United Kingdom, but with a second "open international" competition for poems on a medical theme written by anyone from anywhere in the world. The Hippocrates Prize, first given in 2010, awards five thousand pounds (approximately $7,800) to a winner in each category, as well as publication in an annual anthology.
Entries are now open for the 2012 Hippocrates Prize, and the deadline for submissions is January 31, 2012. More information is avaialable on the prize website.
And each spring, Bellevue Literary Review, based at New York University's Langone Medical Center, holds its annual poetry (and fiction, and creative nonfiction) contest for works on health and healing. Stay tuned for more on the BLR Literary Prizes in 2012. In the meantime, be well and write strong!