The Hospital

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by Ben Barton

In The Hospital, Ben Barton offers slow observations of hospital life. A dead man’s phone rings; a slug encroaches through a gap in the window; a glimpse of the outside world is viewed through an X-ray held up to the light. In amongst the daily humiliations and the public spectacle of the sick and the dying, there are sparks of hope: a nip of whisky from another patient’s hip flask, the cries of a newborn from down the corridor, and one last meal, jab, swab before leaving.

978-1-9164128-2-8. Cultured Llama. PB. 203×127mm. 64pp. October 2018. Poetry. £10.00

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Ben Barton grew up on the Romney Marsh in Kent. His poems have been published in Chroma, The Coffee House, Iota, The Journal, Neon Highway, Pulsar, Snakeskin, South, Time Haiku and Zygote in My Coffee, among others. Nominated for the Canterbury Poet of the Year Award and the erbacce-prize, he works as a professional copy and travel writer.

Also a film artist, Ben’s film Stella Erratica was funded by the late David Bowie, and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. He lives in Folkestone with his husband and son, beside the beautiful North Downs.


Ben Barton’s hard-hitting poems reveal the mythic and archetypal realities of illness and hospitals. With flashes of tenderness and humour, he takes us on a journey from the battlefield of admittance to hospital to a final encounter with ‘Dignity’. During this descent into a kind of underworld, his body (and by implication, all our bodies) becomes a strange other, its experiences, vivid and dreamlike. This is an illuminating read for anyone who has ever visited the strange kingdom of illness or wondered what might be found there.

Victoria Field, writer and poetry therapist

In The Hospital, Ben Barton brings to the fore the frightening world of a patient who becomes absorbed by the macabre realities of the sick, the lonely and the dying. This collection brims with curiously sensitive glances at those who society would rather have us forget or ignore, shifting seamlessly between the bleak and restorative.

Anthony Anaxagorou, poet and artistic director of Out-Spoken

Against the helplessness of being a hospital patient, Ben Barton sets the power of the poet, the power of words to create order and meaning out of a potentially humiliating experience. Reduced to being ‘abbreviated Latin’ on ward notes, he offers a special insight into the nature of suffering and being human, and the hopes that sustain us.

Richard Swan, author of Melody’s Unicorn (2018) and former Ashford Poet of the Year

Turning an unflinching gaze on the experience of illness and a prolonged stay in hospital, The Hospital connects with the humanity, horror and grace under pressure of both patients and staff. In a beautiful collection that is not without humour, Ben Barton shows that his formidable poetry gifts were not allowed to lie idle in that hospital bed.

Patric Cunnane, poet and organiser of Dodo Modern Poets

Hard-hitting, sensual, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes in your face, these slant nuggets of hospital life are ‘birth and death served together in one meal’.

Graham Burchell, poet

An absorbing collection. These gritty but poignant poems tread a solitary path through the dark and tragic experiences of the poet’s life.

Jane Lovell, poet and winner of the Flambard Poetry Prize

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