On Tuesday, I ran my annual poetry workshop for the Medical Humanities students at Imperial College London, led by Giskin Day. For part of the workshop, we applied the techniques used in Tom Phillips’ classic art book, ‘A Humument,’ to the Hippocratic Oath. I provided students with four versions of the Oath: a translation of the original, a version for nurses called the ‘Florence Nightingale Pledge,’ a modern version written in the 70s, and the ‘Affirmation’ that Imperial College London medical students will take once they graduate.
I’ve written previously (there and also here) about the amazing adaptability and resonance of applying ‘A Humument’ to Medical Humanities workshops. Students respond with an overwhelmingly positive level of enthusiasm to cutting out paper, marking up the texts, and teasing out words and phrases relevant to their experiences. They’ve given me permission to post their works below – and this was from about twenty minutes’ worth of ‘treatment’ time! I’ve selected some of the most colourful, but I want to thank all of the students for their marvellous contributions.
Tom Phillips would, I hope, be proud of the range of styles, and also the humour here:
Each student came up with her (or his) own metaphorical style and approach. The artwork some of them did in just a fifteen or twenty minutes!
It’s not only impressive, but incredibly heartening, to see which words students chose:
Opera di Cera is now in hand, and available from Valley Press (where you can read about details of the launch party on 8th April – do join us!) and Inpress Books (who names the verse drama as one of their favourite publications of the year)!
I could not have hoped for a more gorgeous quality of production, and I must thank Jamie McGarry for his fine attention to detail and uncompromising aesthetic. The path to publishing Opera di Cera before it found its proper home with Valley Press was treacherous at times and I’m relieved that I rescued it from a lesser situation and worked to make it a stunning VP book.
Some people have asked about the title: it is pronounced ‘Chera,’ or ‘Chair-ah,’ – Cera has a hard ‘ch’ sound. Ready? Channel that Italian accent: ‘Opera dee chair-ah.’ Opera di Cera. The title translates as ‘wax work,’ or ‘work of wax,’ and I’m ever grateful to Richard Barnett for suggesting it.
The ambition of the book is operatic, and I’m extremely fortunate to have caught the interest of actors Rebecca Tremain and Gary Merry, who joined me at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on Saturday for a brief dramatic reading as part of the Oxford-Globe Forum for Medicine and Drama in Practise. Our excerpts took place alongside scenes from Selimus and discussions of Titus Andronicus, and fit in well. Rebecca and Gary will also be reading at the launch!
Last Thursday, I was in Cambridge for the Science Festival as well to meet with Leigh Chambers from Cambridge 105 Radio for an interview about Opera di Cera. This should go on the air in the next month or so, and I will post details and links when it’s available.
Following the interview, I joined a distinguished panel of writers – some of whom I know well, some of whom I was delighted to meet for the first time – for ‘Science as the Spark’ – talking about writing creatively about science. The event was sold out, and we had a bright, engaged audience, who listened and contributed to a healthy discussion about historical fiction (from the two female writers on the panel) and science fiction (from the two male writers on the panel) – convened by someone I always enjoy hearing from – Dr John Holmes, Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science, which sponsored the event. A great night, ending with lively discussion in the pub afterwards about the pre-Raphaelites and their poetry – one of my favourite topics!