John West and Saxby Pridmore

John West is a Melbourne nurse and prolific poet. Such a writer may give us helpful insights into an area of health care we might otherwise be tempted to ignore (at our peril). Studying the poems of other health care workers may help us maintain good relations with them.

from Portraits.

3. A Chinese Man in a Bed 

Approaching him, holding his pills

I think how alike all old men are

taking up as little space as possible

missing their wives and children, their grandchildren

reading their newspapers over and over again

their false teeth always drooping as they snooze

off and on; throughout the afternoon

waiting for that visitor, that meal, that cup of tea

giving a little start when the nurse

taps them on the arm and hands them

another cup of pills.


In his book First AA Meeting            

I can see them at the door, smoking

drinking coffee from styrene cups.


I want to be anywhere but here,

home writing down this poem,


Walking back along this street,

admiring the bodies of women


not at this meeting

not at the mercy of truth.


West has a number of poems about nursing care, especially on the longer-term geriatric and psychiatric wards. His verse is direct and uses simple words and phrases to communicate profound observation. 

May JohnsonConsider:Saxby Pridmore 

Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Tasmania, Pridmore is an unusual poet in so far as he has published over 200 poems in the literary press but never released a book. The following poem is remarkable for its subject matter and its intensity of honest feeling: 

Caught on the HopInfluenceConsider:References and Further Reading 

West, John (2002) All I ever wanted was a window              Pardalote 

Pridmore, Saxby: numerous works in numerous journals which can be searched on the AustLit database

updated: 22/03/2010