Unpredictable bodies: Lucy Hurst in conversation with Kayla Jenkins
Kayla Jenkins talks to Lucy Hurst about her bold debut chapbook, Modern Medicine, published on June 18th 2021.
Kayla: Hello Lucy! Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview for the blog. We’ll get right into it.
Kayla: So – it’s been a short while now since Modern Medicine was released. Have you had any feedback or reviews that have especially stood out to you, and for what reasons?
Lucy: I think it's interesting hearing how some people found it unsettling, whilst others found it relatable. I love reading reviews on Twitter, but the best feedback has been from my friends. The chapbook opened up a lot of discussions.
Kayla: Obviously, this is your debut chapbook, and I’d love to learn more about how the process for writing it came about. Was there a particular thought or experience that sparked your desire to write what would eventually become Modern Medicine?
Lucy: At the time I was finding it hard to avoid the topic of illness in my writing because I was getting sick. I had an intense undiagnosed chronic pain that brought with it many, honestly frightening, unknowns. Writing and learning more about disability criticism helped me communicate what I was feeling, and from there I started writing Modern Medicine.
Kayla: This is a daring chapbook that deals with some serious and stark topics, including chronic illness and the complicated nature of living within a body in pain. Why was it so essential for you personally to explore these topics – what do you hope people will take away from Modern Medicine?
Lucy: That we should talk more about our pain and discomfort! There is so much shame and stigma around suffering, and it can become dangerous. It's hard asking for help, especially when you can’t work out what is wrong, but we deserve to be heard.
Kayla: Of course, one of the most exciting and prominent ways in which you write about these themes is through the careful balance of dark humour and an honest intimacy. I’m intrigued about how and why this writing style was chosen - Was this always your intention, or did it naturally evolve?
Lucy: It felt like I was writing a diary. Some poems were hard to write so honestly, and I deliberated on the details, but I wanted it to be true to how I felt. The dark humour and weird imagery gave me a way into explaining how uncomfortable I found my own experiences. I went through many physical examinations from strangers, tested out medications, and had new sensations of pain. I think the dark humour helps people to understand the kind of fear that comes from an unpredictable body.
Kayla: Arguably one of the standout poems of the chapbook is the titular sequence, ‘Modern Medicine’. How did you decide which archaic medicinal practices to include, and what was the research like?
Lucy: I chose mainly medieval medicine practices because they really interest me, they’re so grotesque but were accepted for such a long time. The research made me realise I’m squeamish - I had read about recent attempts at trepanning and found some documents on the use of leeches in medicine. It was so gross I knew I had to use it.
Kayla: I believe you’re currently studying for your PhD at York St John (congrats on that by the way!) and I was wondering if you had anything else in the works at the moment – a full collection, perhaps?
Lucy: Thank you! Yes, the PhD is creative/critical so there’s a full collection in the making. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’ll be a frank and honest collection. It’s still a way off, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again soon.
Kayla: Thank you so much for your time!
Lucy: Thank you for having me.