Dead [Women] Poets Society Blog

Hannah Hodgson 'resurrects' Julia Darling

Updated: Apr 27

Julia Darling was a poet who died in 2005. She wrote extensively of her cancer and terminal diagnosis. Her poems explore the collision of medical and poetic worlds, they are beautifully formed, honest and darkly humorous. When I was diagnosed with a life limiting illness in 2015, she was the first poet I came across who wrote explicitly about illness and who gave me permission to write about my current situation.

Below you'll find a discussion of a poem by Julia Darling followed by a poem by Hannah responding to it, and you can see the séance in full on YouTube.


Julia Darling's sonnet 'Nurses' casts the healthcare workers as 'bossing me in and out of clothes / in windowless rooms, tucking me in.' At the turn she takes the power, and responds: 'But I am the woman who won't take off her bra, / the one who demands that you look her in the eyes.' She says, 'when they come back for me, I'll be gone.'



Records are written by strangers. Days are on repeat prescription.

Personhood is incinerated with laundry. Electric toothbrushes

have nowhere to charge. My body retreats and advances, tidal.

I do crafts with custard, cornflakes, and popcorn to show the doctors

I’m not food averse. Body lotion is confiscated, it contains alcohol.

Bleeps chirp in the nests of scrub pockets. Oxygen cylinders

drip like molten silver. PVC chairs, empty egg cups. A fruit stall

in the lobby. A 4% chance. Rows of patients side by side,

boxes of unlit matches. Fury gathering on lungs like pneumonia.