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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness


Lisa Thomas Poetry Competition


The Lisa Thomas Poetry Prize
This is an annual prize open to anyone connected with mental health which will take place during the Spring each year with prizes being awarded at the Spring Biannual Meeting.  There are three prizes, 1st Prize £300, 2nd Prize £150 and 3rd Prize £50.

2013 Competition
We received 30 entries to the competition this year and as usual it was a challenge to pick out the winning entries. The judges were Dr Mike Metcalfe, Dr Charles Montgomery and Mrs Abigail Watts. Below are the winning entries for 2013:

1st Prize - A Photograph Taken in Honest Lighting

by Laura Fishbourne

2nd Prize - Living

by Daniel Racey


I am pockmarked.

My attention deficit fingers

know every pore

and every blemish.

My skin is a poem

learnt in braille, recited daily.

It is a dig that does not know

if it is being excavated

or exhumed.

Only that it is caving

under the pressure

of pitted, anaemic nails.


I am the photograph

that you put to the back

of the album

but the front of an exhibition.

the unflinching rawness

of adolescent anxiety.

The street translation:

why doesn't she use concealer?

My mirrors are your

car windows, your LCD

television screens,

the whites of your eyes.


I am not a cocoon/

butterfly metaphor

nor a skin deep maxim.

My foibles are pathological

but I am not a psychiatric

diagnosis in a fat folder

I am a photograph

taken in honest lighting.

A polaroid snap

developing in plain sight.

I am finding

my exposure.



It is a living:

the chord of traffic

tautens its tendon to the hospital door.


It is a living:

the faces I pass,

armouring themselves in the corridor.


It is a living:

to jab at extinction

to arrange survival in manilla folders.



But this is living:

the day shedding the second hand,

minutes that impudent finches dive through

until the giddy hours spread like a fresh-grassed herd.


That day grew dark and the hills fell into a rock.

Its heft pulled us in and we lay

listening to the earths pulse, out animal selves settling

as pigeons called each to the other.



The demetia ward at dawn.

Beams rake the drip stand

as I reach for her hand.


She is ninety

and smiles like my daughter,

the daughter I will not have.


I stroke her arm for a vein.

he laughs and her skin

thins, becomes a lens.



we are in her garden,

swallows skimming the hedge

our flesh coursing

under a newborn sun.

3rd Prize - OD in Resus Two

by Penny Shutt


There was a time

when ninety foil blisters

burst open in row

upon determined row,

Left me as hollow

as the strewn silver packets.

With them; a spidery

'I'm Sorry'

veering off the lines

of a note

handed over,

always with the rolling of eyes

by paramedics who've seen it all before.


There was a time

when each detail

leading up

to this act of such searing finality

would tear at me;

Two days' food left out for the dog,

recycling rinsed and lined up

in the right boxes on the kerb.

A glimpse of a Primark label

as pyjamas are cut off


And the eloquent courage

of the ones who slip notelessly

Leaving no fronds of remorse

to forever curl in tenrils

around ones left asking why?


But now, it's closed questions:

How many? What time?

Pupils equal and reactive,

heat rate in sinus.

Don't get into the reasons

into what led to this,

The plans, the intent

of an act that says only 'this

will make you sorry.'


Just stabilise,

send blood for levels

and refer to psych.


2012 Competition
The response for the 2012 competition was excellent, we received 68 poems all of a very high quality which made it very difficult for the judges, poet Claire Williamson together with Dr Mike Metcalfe, Mrs Pat McPhee and Mr James Gregory. Having pondered long and hard the following were the winners for 2012:

1st Prize - Insight after Midnight

By Abigail Wyatt

2nd Prize- No Time Resides Here

By Rev Christopher Newell


There are terrible moments
we cannot guess at
that wait  like traps and snares.
Beneath our feet
the ground gives way
and we go tumbling down;
a door closes, a latch clicks;
then we are left alone
with our death’s head.
We attend with horror,
the open mouth that freezes
on the slow cusp of speech.


These are terrible moments
and we cannot guess
the hour  that they will find us;
the sun shines, a bird
takes flight, and the light
of our world is blotted out.
We are crushed beneath
as the sky falls down,
and our mouths fill
with rubble and plaster.
Chalk dust speaks one last
great O as the singing heart
falters and winds down.


There are terrible moments:
day by day, they whisper
to us in our anguish
a screw tightens
the knife twists
a dull blade
rumbles and falls;
yet fear itself
may be the great abyss
we fear will rise up
to consume us;
and it may well be
that the demons
we see are just the poor
fleeting shadows
of our lives.


You’ve come, tell me why,

For no time resides here,

All in all everything is here,

In all its grief and space to fill,

No time resides here, beware!

Is this what eternity is like, I wonder,

Eternal life, in all its grief and space to fill?

But that would be hell not heaven!

How have you coped with all the deaths,

How have you been able to visit me,

No time after time, why now

With no news of my aunts and uncles,

Cousins and friends who have left me today,

I tell you what you should know and make me tell you.

How dare you come to visit this place, this me filled with

Grief upon grief, no time to reflect, all time removed,

So all have died today and all will die tomorrow and

The next day, if only there was such a time,

For eternal time resides here, just eternal life with all

Its grief and space to fill.

I am my mother’s child, I miss her as a child,

And she only died today, my father, aunts and uncles

Following this morning, this moment, this achingly filled

Moment, with grief to spare and space that only knows my tears.

I scream, I scream at you, at me, at this place I do not recognise,

I ache for a mother’s womb that bore no children, bears no children today,

Never bore and never bears today, I am a young mother who will never bear today.

Never bore, grieve for this moment which is for ever this moment.

I am a mother never to be, and a mother’s child never not to be,

My cousins and friends, aunts and uncles, father and husband,

All die today, every death today, and in this space loss found

Never to be lost again.

I scream, I cry, I can no longer speak with you

And I no longer feel or know that you recognise my humanity

For my loss and grief is screaming at you to go.

No Time Resides Here and You have come to Hell.

God Bless You, I struggle to say and only take your hand

No Time Resides here to ever let it go.


3rd Prize -What the Monkeys Need to See

By Jennifer Alcock


Such surreal thoughts and feelings

Crowd my mind on dead dog evenings.

Often suicide in red

Lies thin between us on the bed.

Translucent angels fan the gloom,

Their murmurs sigh around the room.

Beneath the floorboards prying eyes

Squint upwards, goading my demise.

Dear Zopiclone, my fuzzy friend,

Betrays me at the bitter end.

Then anxious faces nosey in,

Reminders of the pending sin.

Miasma’s slow but sure embrace

Cocoons my soul, aligns my face,

Prevents the chaos breaking free,

Mutates to mediocrity,

A mirrored view of sanity,

Presents a cheap and cheerful me,

So, normal to the blinkered eyes

And reassuring the unwise.

That’s what the monkeys need to see.




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