Jesus looks over my shoulder and reads the notes on my phone / please, spit in my eye / he politely declines
Lucy Hurst is a poet and writer based in Lincolnshire, and I hope I am correct in saying that she is still studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at York St John. Her poetry was shortlisted for The Bridport Prize in 2020.
Often, words like ‘visceral’ get thrown about a lot about certain types of poets. In this case, Lucy effectively dismisses the term, then rewrites the rule book on what’s polite and acceptable when discussing their own medical issues. This is a brutal and uncompromising lens, pointed directly at the literal pain of suffering.
Lessons from the Text
When you start with this pamphlet, I suggest heading straight to page 10 and beginning with the five poems which make up Lucy’s Modern Medicine sequence. The juxtaposition of ancient and modern’s the perfect structural payoff, and Hurst makes you squirm like the leeches she initially references. The stream of consciousness reaction to stimulus constructs a compelling and brilliant narrative.
All the poetry here is carrying its own share of discomfort, however: from the abstract musing on dead things as display [At The Museum] to the more unpleasant relationship between Doctor and Patient in Resistance to Treatment, there are many lenses, the fracturing of pain and response from countless, often unexpected angles. Notes on Love is a particularly difficult, yet hugely necessary read.
This pamphlet is a perfect juxtaposition between what we think it really means to be ill, and the true reality of someone for whom illness has become a part of their existence. Massive, MASSIVE respect goes to Lucy for not only sharing this with us, but doing so without compromising on the significance of her situation.
Will you read it again? Yes, and this is another one from which I have made notes.
Would you recommend it for me to read? This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how language alters in the presence of both stress and pain.