Aylesbury nurse wins national poetry competition

Debbie Lawson - winner of the A Poem to Remember competition
Debbie Lawson - winner of the A Poem to Remember competition

A nurse from Aylesbury has won the first ever ‘Poem to Remember’ competition - with her work entitled ‘One for the Team’.

Debbie Lawson, who works in the Accident & Emergency Department at Stoke Mandeville Hospital spoke of her delight after winning the inaugural event - run by The Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre.

After her poem won a public vote from a final shortlist of five Debbie will have her work read by Prince William at a special handover event at the centre on Thursday.

Debbie’s poem won 49 per cent of the public vote in the competition which attracted more than 5,000 entries.

As well as having her poem read out at the ceremony, Debbie will win £2,000 and will have her poem installed permanently at the DNRC.

Debbie, from Aylesbury, was inspired to enter the ‘A Poem to Remember’ competition through her job at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and work as a PTSD counsellor.

She was also motivated by her personal connections to the military and the Armed forces – her husband served in the RAF for 42 years and her daughter’s fiancé has undertaken multiple tours in Afghanistan as he serves in the Special Forces of the Australian military.

Debbie said: “I am absolutely delighted that my poem has been chosen as the winner.

“It is based on a true story that I was told by a boy suffering from PTSD.

“He was in Afghanistan in a tank that was blown up and his mates were killed.

“My hope is to explain what people like him are going through.

“If just one person reads my poem and understands from it what these people are going through, then I will be delighted.

“I have listened for years and years to those experiencing stories like this, and also at work face the onslaught of a busy A&E department as well.

“It gives you an awareness of people who are struggling.

“I wanted to write about that and it is why I am so overwhelmed and honoured to have won.

“To now have someone like Prince William read my poem and help raise awareness of PTSD is magnificent.

“I feel the fact people cared enough to choose my poem gives value back to those who are suffering in some way - I am so grateful.”

The DNRC ran the national poetry competition to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and celebrate the creation of the world-leading clinical rehabilitation facility for the Armed Forces.

Launched in February this year by Prince William and inspired by the Great War Poets of the First World War, the competition sought to discover the next generation of poems that reflect on humankind’s ability to triumph over adversity.

More than 5,000 entries to the competition were received – ranging from poems about the Grenfell Tower tragedy and Manchester Arena attacks to personal tales of conflict, and nostalgic memories of relatives or friends who served in the Armed Forces.

From this, the best five entries were chosen by a panel of judges, chaired by Dan Snow and including Andy McNab, Stephen Fry, Caroline Wyatt, JJ Chalmers, Katherine Rundell, Meena Kandasamy, Inua Ellams, and the 7th Duke of Westminster.

The public then had the chance to have its say and decide on the winning poem from the shortlist of five.

Shortlist judge Katherine Rundell said: “One for the Team seems to me the perfect winner – it’s about pain and love and courage, and it’s as tough-minded as it is gentle.

“It will be read and re-read; I hope it gives the readers that galvanic jolt of hope that poetry does better than anything.”

One for the Team by Debbie Lawson

I keep seeing you mate, intact and laughing,

holding up your baby to make us smile.

I keep hearing you mate, joking, urging, ‘come on lads keep together, don’t step on the cracks it brings bad luck’.

‘Keep it tight boys, we’ll be home by the footy season’.

We carried you home, silent and broken, you really took one for the team that day.

Your dad stood with pride head high, don’t cry, don’t cry.

Lucy took the flag, a token for the broken.

The baby will have it one day.

They’ll go to the wall to see your name, a game, ‘let’s find daddy’s name’

but I keep seeing you mate, my shrink says you’re not there, that makes us laugh doesn’t it?

What do they know.