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."

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 Borderlands of madness

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 Cantos from a cage

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 The recurring reproach to reason

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 Strange salt

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 The Great Confinement