Poem: South Ward

I have made many visits to mental health hospitals over the years, almost all of them in support of my mother who suffered for most of her adult life from severe mental illness. The experience of these institutions humbles the mind. It teaches us how each of us is a "preposterous hodgepodge, uniquely arranged" - in the words of the great Inga Clendinnen who knew the gulf between the experience of the well and the sick - "a more significant division in any society than class or gender or possibly even homelessness."

Advertisements

Borderlands of madness

Demi-fous. Mazeland. Dazeland. Driftland. Incipient lunatics. Hysterics. Neurotics. Carriers of latent brain disease. Neurasthenia. Sufferers of high prevalence disorders. People with shattered nerves. Stressed out kittens. The traumatised. The burnt ones. Melancholics. The worried well. There are so many names designating those who prowl in the borderlands between madness and reason. Some of these names are... Continue Reading →

Craft, voice and the fire

"We all know poetry isn’t a craft that you can just turn on and off. It has to strike fire somewhere, and truth, maybe unpleasant truth about yourself, may be the thing that does that." Robert Lowell, from a letter quoted in Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character (2017) by... Continue Reading →

Cantos from a cage

What thou lovest well remains,                                                   the rest is dross What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage Whose world, or mine or theirs                                             or is it of none? First came the seen, then thus the palpable... Continue Reading →

Improvisation on a train

On a red sore train I wonder what I will leave Behind when I am gone And only dead words And the memories of others Can breathe life Into all I once knew Once consoled myself with. Consoled myself for burning time An unknown trauma that has no photos No documents. Only A childhood of... Continue Reading →

The recurring reproach to reason

Today, I finished reading Andrew Scull's Madness in Civilization: a cultural history of insanity, which has prompted a few posts here and here. The book ends with a series of falls from grace of modern ways of thinking about madness; psychoanalysis becomes stranded with its limitation to a small elite, only to find itself as... Continue Reading →

Strange salt

All I've suffered, and all the suffering I've  caused, might have arisen from the lack of a little salt in my brain." Robert Lowell I have been reading Kay Redfield Jamison's Robert Lowell. Setting the River on Fire: a study of genius, mania and character. It is a lusciously detailed and clinically informed study of... Continue Reading →

The Great Confinement

Image Source: photograph, Sarah Lee, Bethlem Museum of the Mind exhibition, The Guardian From Keats, Hyperion: Just at the self-same beat of Time's wide wings Hyperion slid into the rustled air, And Saturn gain'd with Thea that sad place Where Cybele and the bruised Titans mourn'd. It was a den where no insulting light Could glimmer... Continue Reading →

Going sane writing

Adam Phillips says somewhere, perhaps in one of his intriguing essays, perhaps in an interview with the Paris Review, that writing is for him "an experiment in what your life might be like if you were to speak freely." It is also a description he gives, in another way, to the process that goes on in the... Continue Reading →

Madness & History

I am reading Andrew Scull's Madness in Civilization: a cultural history of insanity from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine (Thames & Hudson, 2015). The title is a wink to the English translation of Foucault's Folie et Déraison, that is Madness & Civilization: a History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.... Continue Reading →

Some measure of insanity

Let me simply record this statement from Donald Winnicott, which I have taken from the end of Adam Phillips' short book on the enigmatically wise child-doctor and psychoanalyst: If I want to say that Jung was mad, and he recovered, I am doing nothing worse than I would do in saying of myself that I... Continue Reading →

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑