Haikus for the NHS: read the poems here!


When the team here at Nothing in the Rulebook first launched our ‘Haikus for the NHS‘ poetry project at the turn of the year, we did so with a simple aim: to show our support, through art and creativity, for one of the UK’s most treasured institutions: the National Health Service.

Quite simply, we have been blown away by the incredible response to our project. While we have now announced the winners, we wanted to share with you the haikus we received that made our short- and long-lists.

“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence,” claimed the brilliant poet and political activist Audre Lourde. In these challenging times, we need poetry more than ever before.

This is because poetry is far more than grammar and syntax – the terms and measurements that help us identify and discuss language scientifically. It is more than copy on a page. It is rhythm; it is sensations; it is incantation. And, through this, poetry becomes meaning. It becomes truth.

Poetry’s essence, therefore, produces a visceral effect that can inspirit, inspire, and transform those who read and hear it. And it is this that makes poetry such a powerful tool for speaking out against the wrongs of the day – for channelling the universal human feelings of every man and every woman into something meaningful and real, into a form of protest and resistance.

The poems we have published here – and which we will distribute among the thousands of demonstrators marching on London on 4 March – capture this essential essence of poetry and move us through a range of powerful emotions, all while leaving us with the essentially common strain of thought: that we must fight and do what we can to protect the UK’s National Health Service.

At times, personal, moving, funny, abrupt, stark, visceral and filled with a vehement passion and anger against the incumbent Conservative Government, these poems stood out for us among over 200 submissions as capturing the essential essence of all that is good about the NHS, while also using poetry – specifically, haiku – as protest.

To all those who submitted: thank you. And to those reading now, we hope you enjoy reading these fantastic haikus as much as we did.

The winning haiku


Here, for those past help, the best of humanity, banishes all fear – John Blackmore

Our shortlisted poems

Juliet Stavely haiku.png

Aneurin Bevan, had a beautiful ideal, stop shitting on it – Juliet Staveley


Crisis is defined, by all we are losing, save our NHS – Eva Reed

Sarah Purvis haiku.png

A nurse with tired eyes, her golden heart is breaking, beneath her disguise – Sarah Purvis

Selected poems from our longlist are below:

Tories underfund
Our welfare, schools and councils.
At least we have our-

– Daniel Louden

“The Hippocratic oath,
We’ve signed, you haven’t.

– Emma Gowen, Suffolk UK

health care . . .
riddled with holes
the open sky

-Ernesto P. Santiago

“We are a first world!”
We cry – unknown is the fact
That we will soon die.

– Katie Bell

slash-and-burn farming—                                                                                                                 one more NHS service                                                                                                                     reduced to its cost

-Shrikaanth krishnamurthy, Birmingham UK

My life, again; mine

and untold others, living,

made livable. Thanks.

-Sarah Peploe

Picks you up when all is lost

The NHS, it breathes life…

back into despair

They come through for us

Doctors and Nurses are there

Be there for them, Now!

Tell the children why

You can’t afford their care fees

Bet you can’t do it

– Charlie Rowland

Cut, try to stem a

haemorrhaging system, a

self-inflicted wound.

A tick of the pen

budget slashed to nothing.

No nurse to heal us.

Injured? Take a seat

a small plastic one over there.

Lords sit on velvet.

– Sean Smith

I can’t stop coughing
Unnecessary death sucks
Free health care is cool

– Kaela Starkman

nurses help,
doctors heal patients,
amplify life.

– Karen Rodgers

What is as good as

dead as preventable deaths

the NHS saved?

NATO allies throw

bombs with their talk of markets.

Wrap yourselves in white.

– Maureen Miller, USA

We came in crying

And stay amongst the dying

Care is more than words

Come one and come all

See the power of profit

Stealing from us all

– Joshua Deslatte

No beat of the heart

His on the Surgeons table

Save our NHS

– Louise Burgess

Professional medics

Determined to provide us

Care when we need it.

– Morna Sullivan

We lie ill in beds

They come and make us better

We should care for them

– Joan Barker

They want defunding,

Then complain the NHS

Is under-resourced

I’ve estimated

That without the NHS

I’d have died twelve times

I needn’t cook meth

To pay for cancer treatment

Thanks to free healthcare

Fuck every Tory

Who thinks that dying people

Owe them anything

– Hannah Froggatt

Unsung heroes dedicate their lives

to save us in our desperate hours.

Now we save them.

– Jess Burman

You can only cut

Something so much before it

Slowly bleeds to death.

-David Milligan-Croft.

What does it cost you

To forget the sick and dying?

How much for a life?

Decision makers

Acting in self interest

Will not heal the poor

– Andrea Mbarushimana

Beds and meds, they said,

Free to rich and poor alike

Don’t ruin that now.

– Juliet Staveley

Live without fetters:

Shoulder health and happiness

From cradle to grave

The day our children

Second guess their pains for fear

Of cost, all is lost

– John Blackmore

From the Blitz it grew,

They said it would be bomb proof.

We will be the shield.

All the blue Tories

Profiteering wantonly,

We’ll show the fuckers!

– Robert Holtom

Why our tempers fray?

Missus May, your trolley waits

and botched service rates

She has turned back time:

the dark days of the 90’s

where people die young

– Freya Scott Broomfield

For our NHS

Humanity that binds us

It cannot be lost

Quietly you sell

Our rights, in parts, Theresa

Know that we see you

Cold hard cash, money

Its so little to pay for

Lives, humanity

– Eva Reed

The dream of caring

Was gone in seventy years.

Leaves fall; the sun sets.

– Melody Clarke

they want to privatise

So they deprive the barely alive

Keep Britians pride alive

– Alina Ahmad

Death, disease

Hardship, pain

This is not a third world country

It’s 2017, in the UK

– Michael Gerard

To have forgotten

What it’s like to sleep soundly.

Poor Prime Minister.

– Shane Young

To cut health funding

you save little, and you lose

a nation of lives.

Her hand may subtract

health from the nation, but we;

the world! will stop her.

Hearts worldwide will stand

and join hands in waiting rooms

for the NHS.

– Courtney Lisa Minto, Australia




vagabond countryside logodaealus 1.jpeg

“O’er Mendip, Dorset Downs and Glastonbury, to altitudes of Aeolian awe.” Photography by Mike Dodson/Vagabond Images


Of the apple, rotten to its core

Of gleaming realms decaying in the wake

Of terror, mass-destruction, debt and war

That then caused mankind’s foundations to shake.

Of mistrust, fear, corruption and deceit;

Of Earth and human nature, good and ill;

Ten years of violence, crime, atrocious feats

Committed by those who exploit free will.

Ten years that shaped a poet’s life and words

Success and sorrow, solitude and love;

An unrelenting passage through a world

Both helped and hindered by all things above.

Oh Muse, let not my young years be dismissed—

I have but lived a rambling rustic score

Beneath the gaze of Kings—I bid you list

Where my words will be whispered evermore.

A Milton not of mill towns but of hills

Like Barnes and Hardy led through Wessex Lanes

A man of worthy words and winding rills

Whose rural life by avarice is stained.

Memory! Fail me not, but let me see

Beyond the haze and gaze of those before,

O’er Mendip, Dorset Downs and Glastonbury,

To altitudes of Aeolian awe.

Dear reader triumph not in life’s disasters,

Be not unmoved by suffering and pain

Read what was done, by whom, and wonder after

Whether life can continue just the same.

There’s little I can change in modest verse,

This history holds but one didactic charm:

Change the world for better, not for worse

And close the stubborn door on years of harm;

I write in hope of happiness, health and calm.

* * *

Ten days of Autumn stole into the world

And I returned to noble school pursuits

With little fear or worry in my heart.

Pensive boy: enthralled by Summer’s embers,

Restlessly dreaming of odysseys gone

To darkling moors and warm littoral sand,

Keeper of a blithe and youthful mind,

Captive to the ocean’s ebb and flow

And rural bonds of homely love alone,

Yours were the final throes of blameless bliss,

The simple earth, a lucid life since lost.

Somnolence can never last forever:

Grieving for a close grand matriarch,

A Hibernian Muse unparalleled

In wit and loving care, demanded strength

And, single figures gone, long leafy lanes

Could harbour such a boy little longer.

Nine months—less: ’til June the following year

Were mine to grow, to prove my worth and leave;

Age and time demanded greater knowledge,

New faces, forums, large amphitheatres.

These were then beyond remit and mind:

Transpositions past all those then perceived.

But as the bell that tolls chimes for us all,

And ripples disperse from the pebble thrown

In fits of rage and malice from afar,

The world as known was shaken, shattered, bruised

By New York City’s flaming, falling towers.

For, Babel like, yet at the hand of man,

A proud nation’s glittering spires fell

Confounding all four corners of the Earth.

The eleventh of September saw dark Hell

Return the globe to chaos and conflict

Unseen in over sixty years since war

Threatened to terminate mankind for good.

Oh evil churlish men! What agonies

Must you inflict on fellow man?

Samsons from all seasons, sides, époques

Are claimed and crushed in West and East alike.

Was not one fall enough to see the fault?

We seem’d determined to resign ourselves

To second state of envy, blood and hate;

Two toppl’ng tow’rs, when selfishly destroyed,

Undermined hopes of an Edenic state.

A child returned to have this chaos eek

From moving image into heart and soul:

Memory fragments, metal shards imbibed

And drunk unwillingly through enfant eyes.

What words might best describe existence since

Than anger, fear and sadness, death and war?

In days revenge was waged anew on him

With whom responsibility seemed to fall

Thousands of miles away across great seas

And deserts; an elusive figure, Bin

Laden was named and soon all Hell ensued.

“What made him send those young men off to die?”

“Suicide bombs or brainwashed murderers?”

“How can we stop this happening again?”

“Is any place on earth considered safe?”

Murmured questions hung on every lip;

Whispering women soothed unknowing babes

Unknowing what the future held themselves.

For that is what terror prescribes to do.

To shake, to doubt, to question and to stop

Actions others envy and disapprove.

A War on Terror?—An oxymoron;

Fire fighting fire fighting fire

‘Till all are burnt and all resigned to lose.

Still in rural calm, young minds perceived

The world had changed, digressed on roads all new.

A father’s fear was intangibly felt;

Innocent anxiety, deep and dark

Half-eased and quelled in fierce loving embrace,

All while macabre jets of light laid waste

To Afghan men, women and children far

Beyond the realms of infant cognisance.

And daily torrents, hails of bullets flew:

Fountains of fire streamed all around the world;

Visceral libations floridly hurled

By morbid media to quench our minds,

Satisfy unsavoury appetites,

Until this daily death and destruction

Made us impervious to Afghan plights.

A captain, Hamid Khazi, was sworn in,

To steady a nation which was breaking,

Almost unnoticed by the wider world—

His steering brave, unfeared, yet Hamletic:

Taking arms against a sea of troubles

That broiled and brothed far out of his control.

Within a month another vice arose

As if to warn of what was yet to come.

The price of Avarice and Greed supplanted

Deeds of War that raged afar elsewhere;

The blind and stumbling Cyclops, Enron Corp.

Collapsed and died, it seemed, at No-one’s hands

In the vein of that old Polyphemus.

The guilty few who tumbled cared little:

While those left fleeced would suffer evermore.

Soon int’rest here, too, waned like aging moons:

Our local screens proclaimed a global news

Skewed to the supposed int’rest of the main,

That sowed unconscious, silent ignorance

Of agony, deep hurt and destruction

Like holy fire through society.

So closed a year that left the world on edge:

An occidental civilisation

Had creaked and heaved as if in Portland’s Race.

A Rome, Carthage and Greece that stumbles on,

Connected? Logged on? Yes—but not to life.

To money. Moral worries all unheard

As Christmas light and song brought distraction.

At midnight, at Burn’s Auld Lang Syne we cheered

To welcome in a palindromic year.


~ Written by John Blackmore 

About Logodaedalus

Logodaedalus is a modern-day epic poem, written by the Somerset-based Poet John Blackmore. With his permission, we have serialised the poem, and will be bringing you further instalments over the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for book II in this epic.

About the poet

john-blackmoreJohn Blackmore is a singer, songwriter, poet and English teacher based in Somerset. Much of his music and writing draws on his experiences of, and interactions with, the people and places of his native west country. In 2011, John was a semi-finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award and, in 2014, he contributed music and literary comment to a BBC Radio 4 documentary concerning the Victorian Dorset Dialect poet William Barnes.
You can listen to John’s music on Sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/j-blackmore
John is part of the Poetry Society’s ‘Young Poets Network’. You can read some of John’s prize-winning poems online: http://poems.poetrysociety.org.uk/poets/john-blackmore/

The American Century as Seen Through a Brick (extract)

American Century

The American Century As Seen Through A Brick: A sequence of poetry based on ‘Academy Award Winner for Best Picture’ winners. The remaining poems can be found here.


Cimarron_(1931_film)_posterCimarron 1930/31

Isaiah fans white folk from the ceiling,

One nation indivisible –

An empire pillared by pioneers

Counting notches on their pistol grips…


Time will mellow hearts

Say: America

Hide me in your love.




Casablanca 1943Casablanca.jpg

The speech of the refugee is the living breath.

Let them speak of their roads:

… Through Europe we have travelled

Fleeing tyranny and vultures,


The devil has us by our throats,

The ghettos burn and displace our children,

You must remember us…





Ben-Hur 1959

This country was built by slaves

– It still is –

There are no guilty faces

Just    conquered people


Oar weary on the galleys

Air wary on the gallows

Fire       environs       us       all




In the Heat of the Night 1967Heart of the night

– No Vietcong ever called me a Nigger –

For Virgil, hell is in police officers,

The detail in the dead and suffer;

Tweezers, toothpicks, thermometers.


Just what they know about the King’s insomnia,

The wet cemeteries in the state of Louisiana,

The struggle when fear is attached to color?




70_pattonPatton 1970

If it takes a bloodbath

Our blood, his guts

Blood in Chicago

Dams of blood ready to flood


Foreign blood stung in battle

The prayer’s spittle, blood pour.

Enlightened absolutism – War





Out of Africa 1985Out_of_africa_poster

Alleles of eloquence

Cradled at this rock

Bear the scorn/pity of aids

And are nothing more


To marionettes

Than the withering victory of:





SchlindlersSchindler’s List 1993

Show/er of darkness

Give me strength

For I am lost in the weakness of others

Their cracked house cruelty.


… Light dimmed in interrogation,

Held hopeful, eternal,

The fractal lobe.





No Country For Old Men 2007No_Country_for_Old_Men_poster.jpg

There is no greater me than you;

The birds will die, the trees too.

The flesh of fish will foul

And the song will lose its soul.


I will be hot, you will be cold;

The sea’s of what’s coming,

The intensity of the plunge.




Birdman poster.jpgBirdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) 2014

I don’t exist

, This representation is an act

– An intervention. A medium

Of absence, contradiction, negation


. When I am killed again with impunity

, My autopsy transfigured as found poetry

, again I will’ve been defenseless/muffling… I can’t breathe


About the poet

Asim Khan is from Birmingham, England. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in various print and online journals. He blogs on www.photoetric.co.uk. He Tweets at @photoetric


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A storm is brewing.

See how the clear sky dims before the advance,

A new wind blows, unheard in a lifetime of years,

One to make the shutters dance;

A storm that plays to people’s fears.


A storm is brewing:

One of our own making,

One to shake windows to frost,

Splinter the eaves, unsure the footings,

And leave us lost.

And leave us rueing.


A storm is brewing—

Soon to be ensuing—

So why aren’t you waking?

A storm to twist metal like truths and silence tongues

A storm as dense as ignorance—

And here it comes.


Love, Simply


A spring-time, fresh-faced joy.

One of life’s wonders has appeared and is

Here to stay.

It comes in teardrops, or in smiles.

In a gale of laughter, or a quiet giggle.

In a hug, a sigh or nervous chatter.

Or an argument so furious your heart aches.

Some don’t believe in fairies but

We know this one exists.

Borne on filigree wings

Of conversation and affinity,

It sneaks into hearts and minds.

The only trace, the only echo left is love.

Touching humanity with intangible fingers,

Unveiling clouded eyes so that they may

See the decades which await them;

Abundant in unpicked experienced, ready to be cherished


The milestones are your own,

You are the Wayfinders on this journey.

Remember each breath you take,

For the sensations change every day.

It wears different and beautiful faces,

This thing we share;

Love, simply.

About the poet

Hannah Fairney Jeans was constantly imagining as a young child. These ‘imaginings’ were brought to life by her favourite toy; her type-writer. Now, twenty years on, Hannah is still penning stories, still consumed by her worlds, and still in love with creation, and her type-writer.

All the laurels in the world, and you give me these?

I woke up this morning
thinking I’d won the
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

This is where love and capitalism
has got me, having me on that
I can win a horse race in Paris,

when it’s obvious that
I’m only any good over
the jumps at Wolverhampton.

About the poet

Rishi Dastidar has worked as a journalist, copywriter and poet. He has written for a wide variety of brands in different sectors during his career, while his poetry has been published by the Financial Times, Tate Modern and the Southbank Centre amongst many others. His work was most recently in Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014). A winner of And Other Stories short story prize in 2012, he has also had reviews published in the Times Literary Supplement. He was part of the 2014-15 Rialto / Poetry School editorial development programme, and also serves as a trustee of Spread The Word.

An Alphabet Anthology

26 Acrostic Poems


‘Vermin’ – original illustration by George Vernon

P is for Prologue Articulate buffoons can deduce even fantastical grammar. However, I just keep lying; muttering nonsensical obscene poetic quotations, rhetorical stammers, talking utter verbal wittering. Xeroxing yawping zanyisms!

A is for Abortion Although babies can, do embryos feel? Genes haven’t inherited judgement, knowledge, love, mind, nurture, or pain. Questionable reasoning, still, their unconsciousness verifies when x-chromosomes yird. Zoothapsis.

E is for Evolution Abiding by Charles Darwin’s evolutionary findings, generations have inadvertently jeopardised kinetic life. Mutations now obscure populations, quelling resistance. Species therefore undergo variations which xenogenetically yearn zoopathology.

B is for Birth A born child doesn’t envisage from growth how it journeyed, keeping life’s momentum. Nova of perfect quantity rest, suspended together upon velvet womb. X-chromosome… Y-chromosome… zoom!

N is for Nursery rhyme Apple bore, chapel door, elephant fat, giant hat, ignite jeeps, kite leaps, more nightmares, or prayers, queen rules, scream tools, umbrella vine, weather xenurine, yippee, zippy!

F is for Faith αlpha began Christianity. Delusional elephant faced Gods – Hinduism. In Judaism Koshers law. Muslim nations often practice Qur’ān readings. Swahilian tribes use Voodoo. Wisdom ‘xorcizes’ your zen.

L is for Love Arms bent cradling dearest, entwined for gracious hours. Intoxicating joyful kisses linked, mirroring neatly our palms, quasi reflections sealed together. Utterly vivacious. We. Xiphopagus, yet zestful.

H is for Horizon A boundless cloud drifted effortlessly from ground’s horizon, inducing joyous kaleidoscopic luminescence, migrating nimbly overhead. Prospering quickly, rain started tumbling upon valleys, weeping. Xanadu’s youthful zenith.

C is for Church Antidisestablishmentarianism be Church’s decree, exiling faithless gatherings happening inside Jehovah’s kingdom. Lust must not obscure passion, questioning religious sins to undermine values withstanding. Xerif Yahweh zounds!

G is for Gay A boy callously denies ever feeling gay. However, ignoring joy keeps love’s motion nocturnal of passion. Questioning represses sexual taste, ultimately veiled within. Xenomorphic youthful zone.

S is for Space Astronauts, beckoning countdown detonation, explore foreign galaxies hither. Ignition jets kick-start. “Liftoff!” Mission now orbiting planets quivering rings, sailing through universes. Voyaging wanderers x-raying yonder zodiac.

R is for Racism A black cat doesn’t extradite feline gingers having identity juxtapositions. Kenyan lions merge naturally over prides. Quiet racism still tiptoes under view when xenophobia’s your zoo.

Z is for Zebras Africa’s been considered dramatically exquisite for generating habitat. In jungles, keepers located magnificent natural observations, perceiving quirkily rare species. Twas unimaginable! Vibrant, wild, xanthic (yellow) zebras!

U is for Upside down Zealously yelling xeric worthless verse upsets the sequence, revealing, quite providentially, other nomenclature. Morphemic language knits jargonistic idioms. However, gobbledegook flourishes, eventually deriving coherent backward alphabets.

O is for Orchestra A buoyant crescendo detonates, echoes frivolously gathering harmonious instrumentation. Jiggling keys, like millipedes nattering, oscillate, perpetually quaking. Resounding symphonies thunder until vanquishing with xylophones yelling zing!

Y is for Youth Accidentally by chance, Dave escaped from gerbil hutch. Inquisitive juvenile kids lurk, moulding notions of preposterous questions, riddled secret treasures under verandas where X yearns zilch.

M is for Mathematics Algebra bemuses calculators deriving equations factorising geometric hypotenuses. Integration jumbles key logarithms multiplying negative ones. Processing quadratics reveals substance to universe verified with X, yet zero.

V is for Vermin A black crow dived expeditiously, feathers gilding his indigo jacket. Kidnapped little mice nesting on pastures. Quickly ripped, scraped, tore up vermin with xyster yanking. Zoophagy.

T is for Tramp A bent cardboard duvet enveloped, from gales, his identity. Jaywalkers kneel like monarchs, not offering pockets. Quaking rotten shoes the unhappy vagabond wore. Xmas – yesteryears zero.

X is for X-Rated Adults brandishing corrupt dirty eroticism, flaunt genitalia heartlessly. It jeopardises kinships, letting masturbation nullify. Orgasmic porno queens rouse sexual taint until Viagra withers. XXX yearn zooids.

I is for Insanity Anxiety, beyond chaotic doubt, embraces frail genius’ head. It judiciously keeps letting my nervousness obligate psychotic questions. Rebellious scaring thoughts umbrella violent ways. X-rated? Yes! Zaniness!

K is for Kill A blade cuts deeply, empting from gushing head’s inflamed jugular. Knife lacerates materialism’s never-ending ordeal. Pessimism quits – resulting suicide. The ungrateful veins weep, xeransis. Yearlong zombie.

W is for War Adieu bugle, crying deaths eulogy for glorious heroes, if juvenilely. Killing longevity means naively obliterating peace. Questions rendering? Surrender to undo violent warfare. Xenagogue your zealots.

J is for Justice Albeit by cruel detriment, execution for genocidal homicide initiates justice. Killing life mitigates not of punishment. Quietus retributes stolen time until victims with xenium yield zoetic.

Q is for Questions Answers bewilder consideration. Does everything fade? Generations have interpreted juke knowledge. Life’s meaning, nevertheless, offers perplexing questions. Reason seams to undermine validation. Why X? Y Z?

D is for Death All beings cannot defy eventual fate. Graves hallowing invisible joy. Kin lying motionless, north of paradise, quiet restful stillness. Tombs upholding virtue when xylem, yourself, zeal.

About the author of this post

George Vernon is a writer and teacher based in the UK. He graduated from Warwick university with a first class (hons) degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2012, and completed his MA degree in Writing from Chichester University two years later. When not teaching, George can be found writing; learning; living; loving. He tweets at @MrGeorgeVernon

In Plain Sight

plain sight pic

Eyes that cannot close,
Do not always see
For behind each blink
Forms a memory,
And she makes none.
Her stone drapes,
Fold heavy,
As sunken shadows
Embrace gravity,

Deep loss
Is not solely felt
By those who remain
and remember,
The resilient ones,
Frozen awake
The benighted
Passively surrender
And dead stare,
with silenced tongues.

About the author

Artist and activist, writer and creative conservationist, Asher Jay, uses ground-breaking design, multimedia arts, literature and lectures to inspire action and promote change. All her work is anchored by the deep commitment she harbours toward the realisation of a collective future. Visit her website and tweet her @EarthHeiress