Image by Hanna Burton

'A perfect example of a paralysed larynx'

Stephanie Norgate


'A perfect example of a paralysed larynx'

Stephanie Norgate


Poem introduction

This poem came about from being present at a hospital appointment with my father when he had thyroid cancer. The poem started as an expression of anger but changed itself into a poem about the way work connects people. The title is a quotation from the surgeon during the check-up. I made some discoveries about the poem later, after being asked specific questions about it by a Medical Humanities student at Imperial College. I studied Latin for a long time, and that does affect my writing occasionally. The Latin for larch is laryx, and though that's not the same as larynx, I can't help thinking the sound connection for me as a poet was probably part of the link between trees and a voice in the poem. In Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas' father Anchises is said to have a 'green old age' - and I think there's an association there with the evergreen shapes of the larches which look as if they should go on being green forever but shed their leaves. The picture in the waiting room extended over its own frame, and at the same time I had been reading about 'open field' poetry. The student takes a photograph which means my father's image survives in the hospital and in the study of medicine, just as the picture of the landscape exists in the waiting room at the beginning. The usual boundaries between things seemed to dissolve; landscapes came indoors, came into bodies; trees entered into a voice, connected strands of work and grief, just as the photograph does.

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