Not long ago I was a judge, one of three, in an annual poetry competition, the Hippocrates Prize. It was the first time in my life that I had been the judge in a competition of any kind and I found it surprisingly difficult, even painful. Normally decisive, if not necessarily judicious, in my literary judgment, I became timid, hesitant, fearful, and vacillating. It was an interesting and salutary experience.

Unusually something of practical importance rested on my judgment (conjointly with that of the other judges, of course): The winner in each of two categories, the first for a poem of fewer than fifty lines written by anyone who had ever worked in the National Health Service in Great Britain, the second for a poem written in English by anyone who...


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