Harlow Carr

Today I noticed
the many shade of tulip,
a painter's palette
I've been reading In Search of Memory, The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, by Eric Kandal (WW Norton & Co, New York, London, 2007). It fascinates me that the same process which allows a snail to "learn" to withdraw its tail when a sharp pin prick is applied, also allows me to write. My creativity, my imagination, is merely the movement of protein within nerve cells and then between them through synapses.

As the snail "learns" to associate a loud noise with the pain of a needle and then to withdraw its tail at the sound only, that synaptic connection reforms and grows stronger. And the more I am creative, the more I write, the more my neural pathways undo and re-tie themselves to increase and concentrate the imaginative links and leaps which fuel what I am doing.

We are complex beings made up of many, many simple chemical reactions.

Kandal posits that the connections between neurons is genetically and developmentally determined, but it is experience which specifies whether these contacts will flourish and become robust. "This view implies that the potential for many of an organism's behaviour is built into the brain, ... however, a creative's environment and learning alter the effectiveness of the pre-existing pathways, thereby leading to the expression of new patterns of behaviour." (Kandal page 202).

Which confirms in scientific speak what we artists know in our soul, we become creative by being creative and by taking risks which break the "shoulds" and "have to" neural pathways imposed by others.
A woman who attended some of my poetry workshops sent this poem to me recently. It was heart-warming to read and also reminded me why I do the work I do. I reproduce it here with her permission.

Coming Out
I came out in class today.
It was quite a revelation.
Something I thought I'd never do,
Was share my inner thoughts with you.
I wrote alone, in the dark, behind the closet door,
Putting pen to paper and writing words
Which were never meant to see the light of day.
Or be revealed to anyone other than myself alone.
I thought I'd never be able to say the words out loud.
But today, I found my voice.
I thought I'd never show you my bare throat
Or expose my anguish for public gaze.
I thought it would be easier to remain within the closet.
But you have shown me that it is good to share
And that we all have something worthwhile to say.
And that is why
I came out today.



I do, however, write about my own experience of counselling. This was a poem I wrote some years back about my relationship with my then therapist. It echoes, of course, with the poetry of the wonderful Anne Sexton.

Mr H
with inspiration from Anne Sexton

I call you comfort
because you comfort me,
I call you guide
because you guide me.
I call you Mr Rescue Inc
as well.

And you call me?

I need you.
I lack the required hope.
My weaknesses unfold,
a child’s picture book
with clever devices
to hide and then reveal
and then hide again.

I call you companion.
You came with me
to the water’s edge,
held my hand as I paddled,
flung out the life buoy.

We snapped crab claws
do you remember?
Searched for pearls
in the seaweed.
You must recall that.

I fell at the rocks
sliced my hands and feet
so there were pools of blood
amongst the star fish.

Are you unstained by our journey?
No salt tides on your suit?

Why do you never slip?
Unsoiled, ungrazed
by our voyage through grime.

Each time after I scrub myself
with a cruel brush,
comb silver fish from my hair,
drag eyeless eels from my ears,
anoint myself
with the heavy oils of myrrh,
rub myself with lime,
wrap myself up in purple and silver
to cover over the debris.

I have you under my fingernails
whispering in my head.

Unmoved, untainted,
I call you Mr Rescue.

And you call me?