Thursday, 14 November 2013

Beware: Idle Hands

When origami used to be mentioned, like many others, I would think of paper cranes, butterflies and fish. However, these ‘first-to-mind’ associations changed a few years ago after reading Don Paterson’s Rain.  Now, when origami is mentioned, I think of a single poem from that collection: a blank poem consisting of just a title (‘Unfold’) and a name (Akira Yoshizawa). The poem is in memoriam and once the reader discovers that Yoshizawa was considered to be the grandmaster of origami, this poem, which initially seems to say nothing, takes on a very different meaning…

Yoshizawa once said “When you fold, the ritual and the act of creation is more important than the final result. When your hands are busy your heart is serene.”
Such sentiments have woven their way into therapeutic practices; Occupational Therapy (OT) exists within most psychiatric hospitals – or did before Cameron began his destructive reign – not because clay ashtrays will cure mental health issues, but rather the process of making may offer an hour of distraction.

Ideally, inpatient services would offer more than clay-shaping and paper-folding – talking therapies that give the chance of real change – but, in rundown wards where daytime ‘routines’ centre around the blurred chatter of the television, money becomes the reason for why more isn’t offered. So, for the moment at least, all we can hope is that OT remains in our hospitals, giving brief relief, until the government realises that those with mental health issues deserve more – that their lives are worth more than the subsequent costs.

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To bring this post back to poetry I’d like to share a poem with you from The Naked Physician: Poems about the Lives of Patients and Doctors (Quarry Press) and reproduced on The British Journal of Psychiatry’s website.

Origami – Poems by doctors
(Arthur Clark)

At first, a long time ago,
there were only the folds of your armpits
and your buttocks and groin and eyes,
then the folds of the palms
whereby Madame Ricardo purported to know your future.
Much later came two folds on the forehead.
The folds at the eyes extended,
the ones between the nose and lip grew deep.
More folding. Vertical folds crossed the horizontal,
summers folded onto autumns, and the year
was folded by year and put on year away.
Vast sorrows were folded onto minor triumphs,
tucked under the slip of memory and lost.
Then I began to see the process,
in long shadows, by altered evening light,
as a process, and how each folding

brings you closer to perfection of the finished piece.

Thank you for reading,
Lara
Reactions:

4 comments:

Ashley R Lister said...

A haiku in response:

Great to see you back
Your shrewd insights have been missed
Look forward to more

Colin Davies said...

That was a wonderful injection of creative insight. Thank you.

Adele said...


Ah Lara,

When my marriage was in tatters and he was using the extreme tactic, "games people play" Imy Gpo arranged for me to go to the Vic twice a week. Silk painting and pottery. That way he knew that if he bruised me it could be noticed and I got the therapy I needed to build my confidence so that I and my children could leave. I continued with pottery for three years at night school. Art is so restorative.

And so are you.

vicky ellis said...

That's a beautiful poem. I agree that occupational therapies/purposeful distractions are integral to recovery for the mind. Sometimes talking isn't possible and it's then that practical arts come into their own, another kind of expression that doesn't require words.

I started practicing origami to have something I could do with Raven. Now I find it a soothing practice which results in beautiful shapes. The names of the creases, mountain or valley, seem particularly visual. There are all sorts of metaphors in the micro/macro thoughtfulness of creating peaks and troughs to decorate our environment.

Thanks for writing. I enjoyed this very much. Obviously, wonderful to have you back.