Alisha Kaplan wins Hippocrates Open

Alisha Kaplan from Toronto is the winner of this year’s Hippocrates Open poetry competition, with Poetry Society Members Claire Collison (London) and Rosie Jackson (Somerset) in second and third.


Alisha Kaplan is a poet from Toronto. She holds an MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was a Rona Jaffe Fellow, and a BA from Barnard College, where she received a Lenore Marshall Barnard Poetry Prize. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fence, DIAGRAM, Powder Keg, The Chicago Tribune, Carousel, and elsewhere. The daughter of a printmaker and a psychiatrist, Alisha is very interested in the convergence of art and medicine, in particular the healing possibilities of poetry.

About Coming Off Eight Years of Escitalopram she said It was only after going off nearly a decade of antidepressant medication that I realized the extent of its side effects. Most significantly, it had unmoored me from my sense of self. I wrote this poem after an epiphanic moment in which both my libido and my identity returned, and I suddenly remembered who I was. I wept, overcome with relief and deep sadness at these years of my life that had been so far from full.


Claire Collison is artist in residence at the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmith’s College, London. Claire’s practice as both writer and artist is concerned with place, identity, and the body – most recently designing the participatory walk, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. She teaches in a broad range of settings, currently at the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury, and at Sir John Soane’s Museum, and was the first Max Reinhardt Literacy fellow, at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. A MacDowell fellow, Claire has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Flambard Prize, and came second in the inaugural Resurgence Prize for eco poetry. Her first novel Treading Water was a Dundee Book Prize finalist. Her poetry is published in Templar Anthology, Butcher’s Dog, South Bank,Island Review, The Compass, and in Paper Swan’s Best of British. See more at

About how she wrote The Ladies’ Pond she said: “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I became acutely aware of the invisibility of other women who had chosen not to have reconstructive surgery. This invisibility not only signalled the pressure I was under to conform, it also meant I had no tangible evidence of women survivors. 

She added: “The Ladies’ Pond is both an institution and a secret – a natural oasis, hidden away on Hampstead Heath in London, where women swim year round. The chance encounter with an old woman that I describe in the poem really happened, thirty years ago, but it was only on my birthday, days before my own surgery, that I remembered her. I sometimes wonder now if she was a ghost from my future, come to reassure me all would be well.” 


Rosie Jackson lives near Frome, Somerset and is a Hawthornden fellow, 2017. She’s taught at the Universities of East Anglia, Nottingham Trent, West of England, Skyros Writers’ Lab and Cortijo Romero. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, won various competitions and been made into a copper sculpture by Andrew Whittle in the grounds of a mental health unit, Dorchester. What the Ground Holds (Poetry Salzburg, 2014) was followed by The Light Box (Cultured Llama, 2016). Her prose books include Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, The Eye of the Buddha, Frieda Lawrence, Mothers Who Leave and a memoir, The Glass Mother (Unthank, 2016).

About A Ward Sister Remembers the Spencers  she said: “I started writing poems about the British artists Stanley and Hilda Spencer when I was working on my collection of poems The Light Box. I have a passionate belief in the power of the creative arts to heal or alleviate mental distress – I’ve worked with art and writing in mental health care – and when I reflected on Hilda’s breakdown during the second world war, I felt that her art work probably helped in her recovery. When I researched treatment at that time, I discovered ECT had just begun, and I chose to present the story through a nurse who might have seen it administered to later patients.”

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2 June