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The theme of this conference, making space, is something I’ve been thinking about within medicine.  For the AMH conference this year I entered two poems for the student poetry prize.  The two poems encompass two major life events, the first entitled Birth: evacuation and the second Death: infiltration. With the titles of the poems, I hope to convey the way in which health and illness can impact upon our physicality, and our sense of space. For instance, birth can be experienced as an act of bodily expulsion as the baby enters into the world. Conversely, death can be felt to encroach upon us, like a malign force entering into our living bodies.

I wrote the two pieces last year at university during an option module, in which we spent time trying out some creative writing. As part of the module, my classmates and I took turns to plan and run one of the creative writing sessions. During my group’s session, we chose to explore the themes of life and death. Since then, this year, I am undertaking a BA at the University of Bristol in Medical Humanities, as part of my medical degree.  For my dissertation, I am performing an interdisciplinary literature review into experiences of pregnancy, which strikes me as the ultimate episode of making space both within the human body and healthcare. My new reflections into the childbirth experience fed back into my poetry as I was editing and refining the poems.

Finally, my creative writing piece, entitled First Body, was written during my placement on the wards as a medical student on the wards last year. I encountered a huge array of different patients with different life stories and world views. For instance, speaking with patients about their thoughts on Western medicine and more traditional methods showed me that our typically biomedical model doesn’t suit all patients and conditions. Also, my experience of the dissecting room informed this piece, as the two conflicting images of living and dead intersecting in my mind, whilst trying to hold the image of the person in front of my and the forefront of my mind.

Hopefully my pieces throw some light on the experiences of student with a keen interest in the medical humanities, expressing my encounters front line of hospital care in the form of creative writing. I would like to thank the AMH council for considering and exhibiting my pieces, and I look forward to following and hopefully being involved with the work of the AMH in the future.

E Whitehouse


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