Winning poem offers a new twist on “improving the human”

January 29, 2011

Crafted in the form of a double helix and addressing the issue of cloning, “Forward Deck” by Edinburgh writer, Sophie Cooke, was awarded first prize in the ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition.

Kona Macphee (poet and competition judge) joined Sophie and fellow poets, Russell Jones (3rd Prize) and Katie Gooch (honourable mention), as they presented public readings of their work at the Scottish Poetry Library on Saturday 29 January 2011.

Hosted in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library, the competition received over 200 entries from writers inspired to consider how work in the field of genomics, including DNA profiling, personalised medicine and stem cell research, is helping society by “improving the human”.

Congratulating all the winners Professor Steve Sturdy, Deputy Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, said, “A decade since the first mapping of the human genome was hailed as the start of a new era, we are still coming to terms with the implications of these advances. Our winning poems highlight this sense of uncertainty surrounding genetic technologies and the role they might play in ‘improving the human’ and, we hope they will encourage others to explore their own views on these important issues.”

“Poetry can be a powerful communication form,” commented Pippa Goldschmidt, Genomics Forum Writer in Residence was the inspiration behind the competition. “Our winner, Sophie Cooke, used a compelling and disturbing visual metaphor to address the issue of cloning in ‘Forward Deck’. Many poems found inspiration in the idea that humanity is in our imperfections and the second placed poem, ‘Digital’, by Nina Boyd, illustrated this idea beautifully. In third place, ‘Chromosome Medley’ by Russell Jones offers readers an energetic imagining of the impact of genetic choice on the past, present and future.”

“We’re delighted that genomics provided such an exciting topic of inspiration,” said Peggy Hughes, Communications Officer at the Scottish Poetry Library and a judge for the competition.  “The variety in subject matter, together with diverse poetic styles, and the global perspectives offered by writers from America, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Uganda and India, combined to make judging difficult but hugely rewarding.”

For more information, including all of the winning poems and honourable mentions: ESRC Genomics Network

[From Press Release]

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