Heart Murmur, Calder Valley Poetry (2019), £7.00, available from: www.caldervalleypoetry.com
I can’t remember a time when I have not written poetry. It provides a space for me to think about what is happening in my life and process the experience obliquely, often through metaphor. For me, writing is a way of creeping up on the unconscious and catching it unawares. On a good day, ideas and imagery emerge that take me by surprise. On an excellent day, the writing also communicates to others.
In the past, I wrote a lot of doggerel, or tragically serious stuff that now makes me cringe. In 2015 I decided to learn more about the craft of writing poetry. I enrolled on an MPhil at the University of South Wales, run by the poet Philip Gross. I loved his poetry and he was very encouraging about ‘having a go’ myself.
The MPhil was hard work because of the endless revisions of poems I had thought were finished until I took them to the termly residential workshops. The feedback from the other students and staff was invaluable. Every month I also sent four or five poems to my ‘creative’ tutor for comment. He did not give praise easily and I had to be resilient when he pointed out the inevitable clichés or clumsy phrasing. For the degree, I submitted a collection of around thirty poems written during the two years of the course, and a critical essay on a poet of my choice – Sharon Olds in my case. About half of the poems in the collection were based on my work as a doctor. I included a few from my perspective as a patient as well. This was the beginning of Heart Murmur.
Two 55 word diagnosis stories were published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 58:1 2015. My poetry has appeared in Strix magazines 2, 3 & 4 in 2017 and 2018, and in the Hippocrates Anthologies of 2016 and 2018. I won joint 3rd prize for the poem Six Week Check in the Hippocrates Poetry and Medicine competition 2018. I was Highly Commended for April Walk in the Walter Swan Poetry competition (Ilkley Literature Festival 2016) and for Your Skin in the YorkMix poetry competition 2018. Parakeets in Bradford was shortlisted for the Half Moon Books ‘Wildlife’ competition in 2018 and The Best Meal of the Day was shortlisted for the Candlestick Press pamphlet ‘Breakfast’.
Engagement won 3rd prize in the Saltaire Festival poetry competition on the theme of Textiles, Time and Technology.
Two poems from Heart Murmur will be included in the NHS Anthology These Are The Hands due out in March 2020.