I am pleased the way that the blog section of DAO has taken off in the past few months. Having the opportunity to publish work continues to be a pleasure that I am very grateful for.
When you've grown up with the idea that you need fixing in some way it makes parenthood even more of a challenge...
This baby place
and a way of holding
the little finger
as if grasping an invisible
cup of tea
at a garden party.
you transformed lives;
brought the seemingly
eager to climb rocks,
when even crawling
I grew several
heads in a bid
face for self-belief
as a father.
Love was easy
in the woods
of our soft
fall into you -
a place of stories
plain as pudding -
not like now,
shun a mans' suit;
without hands or feet;
and barely a mouth
to describe the new
to grow into the gap
© Colin Hambrook
In the 1990s I put together a visual arts exhibition called 'Dreams of the Absurd' which got shown in various galleries in the UK and abroad.
It was an extension of a series of large-scale paintings, prints and writing about experience of mental health issues. During research I did whilst still at college I connected the work with the representation of 'madness' within the history of art.
I've been trying to get back into making and showing my own work since the those days... With encouragement from other artists engaged with DAO I'm putting tentative feet back in the water...
So here is a poem that relates to my experience of growing up in a psychotic household and dealing with issues of psychosis personally from a tender age...
On Healing my Childhood
On RD Laings' fit of promise
I gave you a magic potion, hidden
in a steaming plate of baked beans.
You held your demons in suspension
for a while. I hoped you would find forgiveness
in the small hours and learn to be kinder.
Building a time machine with sticky
back plastic, you concocted a
spell; attempted to undo our births.
I put a band-aid on each moment that hurt you;
went to the moon for help, but couldn't find
my way past the myriad of therapists
who crowded the path to the place of no pain.
The universe exploded with nazi meditators
surrounded in light oozing from every orifice.
I travelled to the end of London and back
to find a potent enough medicine to calm your
nerves; put schizophrenia in remission;
denied its existence to release the guilt.
I tried remembering everything you had ever said;
confessed to the time doctor who gave you yet more
electricity in the name of healing. When
you blamed the next-door-neighbours
I wrapped myself in a ball and sent myself to the talisman.
Calling on blood and stone; I found the faces of change
in the place where the gods live and empowered
each memory with a prayer for healing.
You listened to my heart, made promises for every secret
and bound our love to the four corners of the wind
before your white blood cells dried up and died
of largatyl, chlorpramazine, depixol and modicate.
I try hard when writing poetry… sometimes too hard. Scanning this drawing into the computer somehow gave it an even more oppressive feel. Playing with the contrast made it that much starker.
The drawing wasn't made for the poem, but the mood of the drawing sums up some of the suppressed rage in this poem. There is a central figure in battle with demons and strange fizzing machines rising above him. So many of my drawings express different aspects of psychosis...
In many ways my life has been shaped by the moment the psychiatrist took me into my bedroom, aged ten, and subtly demanded to know all the 'mad' things my mum had been saying, on a promise he would make her better.
He took her away and gave her so much ECT she couldn’t remember her children when we came to see her in hospital.
Held fast in the youth chair;
you are a broken cup
a little more
to pick you up.
burns my skin
reminds me of
that recurring dream
haunting early childhood
a black and white
movie picture of mum
the smell of burning
night on night
They burnt her temple
lobes with their 'all
for the best' ethos
that’s fucked us
I've been thinking of posting some of my poetry for some time now. Poetry is one of those things I do to keep going when life gets tough.
I love Jean Cocteau's 1949 retelling of the story of Orpheus. I was born in the underworld. So-called schizophrenia came knocking on the door when I was still in the womb.
Going through mirrors, down holes, into the labyrinth, is something I'm overly familiar with. It's defined who I am. It seems to me that Jean Cocteau understood something about being 'outside.' This clip from Orphée, sums up some of that feeling.
(with homage to Jean Cocteau’s ‘Orphée’ - La traversée du Miroir)
At birth, Orpheus
the parentai bedroom.
The jewels he offered,
gloves that shlurped
a lifetime in Hades.
Watching from the outside -
it is enough to incite
laughter; endure war;
believe the smile of the
pin-stripe; walk on water,
and move through
liquid glass -
silica turned to h2o.
We are a family
and we follow;
it's in our genes
gin and so-called