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Ten-minute chat
  1. Roy Batt

Abstract

Roy Batt is a retired vet, teacher, researcher and lecturer in animal anatomy. He is also a poet, and is currently collecting poems written by members of the veterinary profession.

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How did your initial interest in poetry come about?

I feel that I first came to poetry as a small child by listening to it; this was before I could read or write. It was the rhythm I enjoyed. Later I enjoyed hearing it read at school and, by age 12, I had a poem published in the school magazine.

How did you get to where you are today?

I graduated in veterinary science after five years of study, which I found very difficult at first, but I steadily gained in confidence and graduated in 1958. I had become particularly interested in anatomy and, after a spell in mixed practice (in Reading, Berkshire) I returned to Liverpool to complete a BSc degree within the human anatomy department. This included a research project, which I continued to work on both in my post as a lecturer, as a full-time researcher and, often, collaboratively. My last paper was published after my retirement in 1989. Over this period of more than 30 years, I and my collaborators showed that an inherited syndrome in mice, including obesity, sterility and deficient bone/muscle growth, was, in all likelihood, due to failed regulation by the hypothalamus of the brain. This was proved soon after, by the animal's (and child's) response to the newly discovered hormone, leptin, which matures the hypothalamus.

How did writing poetry sit alongside veterinary work?

I wrote little as a university student and beyond. It was as a lecturer in my early 40s that I had another poem published. From then on I wrote steadily, joined poetry groups and went to workshops. I still attend and I write at least a few lines every day. Writing poetry can go on during a working life. There is enough time and energy – and desire. I never seemed to write about animals so perhaps poetry was a release from work. I have written about dogs, very recently.

Do you enjoy performing your work?

I like reading to an audience. Lecturing has given me this experience, as did acting, of which I used to do a fair amount. I have launched some of my poetry books to audiences. I always feel somewhat nervous before starting, though nothing of the terror of waiting to go on stage before the start of a play!

Tell us about your latest project.

I am collecting poems and editing the next anthology of poems from the veterinary profession, with the aim of publishing a book. It is daunting, but I hope to get there.

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What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?

A good piece of advice I was given was ‘Poetry is music’; the point being, I think, that they must both flow.

What advice would you give to someone considering following a similar interest?

I would pass that advice on to a beginner. Poetry and music are both in our nature; we have to let them out and give them their freedom.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

I have had embarrassing moments I'm sure, but I seem to have buried them!

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