The voice of David Kessel

Grandmother Emmie

An old woman is searching
For the redolence of her summer garden.
Beneath the circling gulls she grieves
A lost rhapsody, the men who are at sea.

Rachmaninov, a yearning song,
Summer friends who are lost and gone.
In a guest-house a grandchild dabbles and smokes
Knowing inalienable wrong.

The horizon holds her unutterable need,
Listless terraces her loneliness,
Inward sailing to fearless continents.
The piano scatters wide her mournful seed.


Stone-head straight up
in the flower-bed
Quarry-man to the
of purple and yellow
Too long turned-in
under the rocky-hearted soil

Weeps into flowers
that she only,
Between the lonely sky and the cold earth
Stands with it
Within the grey quarry-stone

Stone-age dreading stone
Cries out for colour,
Come wind and thunder
one by one
Tear petals asunder.
Seeds of raped flowers
down through the soil of centuries

Pity the grey-axed wind
for the yellow-brained sun's sake.
Pity the grey stone
for the purple-hearted violet's sake.

For the sake of the seeding of orange
in the grey soil suffering
the stony poetless grows,
In a tomb
within a people
whose violets
Only in its graveyard


Whilst I awkwardly roll a fag
a robin sings from a holly tree.

It is we who fence ourselves in.
Like foxes we hunger underground.

The rowan thrives in fierce winds.
The wind brings it rain, bears its leaves and fruit.

I pick a blackberry and find a worm.
I leave the worm to eat the flesh
so the pips may lie naked on the ground.

I turn my female god naturally
into the beetle in my hand.
Then with love I can watch it.
I'll go on making such magic till I die.

On harsh and bitter ground
nettles grow abundantly tall.
Cows make sweet milk from them.

In a sacred wood I dream
of life's conception.

This hawk in a tree hungers for life.
This jet-fighter for death.

If we were really like sheep
we would not kill one another
nor slaughter other animals.

I listen to an owl's ironic hooting.
It knows well its strength
but kills only what it needs.
Thus I will survive life's harshest winter.

To be a sea-trout seeking a mate
at the stream's head

I would live with her as wagtails
independently do by the stream.

The rain is falling into our valley of life and death,
falling on mankind's disintegration of cruelty.

The path becomes a muddy stream.
This is the way I see a woman I love
moving in her freedom with the dark purity of the earth.

Sometimes I feel like the bare sky
longing for the earth.

I have climbed this hill to learn how to take care.

Coming-down amongst an allotment
I find myself amongst children playing.

The Vixen

A vixen long through the killing night
Hungers in our covert, duplicitous suburbs
For stale, dirty chips, a wounded rat.
In her earthy womb an iron litter
Pulsing for moonlight across a June field.
Bitter her eyes, rusty her saliva,
She eats her menses and placenta.
Sing for her a Romany lament in an alleyway
Beneath the wintry Plough's seven stars.
Oh starved outcast citizen you are alive
Beyond all perception of illuded impatient people.

Life Against Death

The east wind of high summer.
Old men with cider bottles,
And I suddenly an old man.

Through the slums with Jesus,
Black, broken hearted, golden Grace.
The whistling Cockney gives
His heart away at street corners
To the young alci: cursing, skint.

Bengali dawn
On the Whitechapel waste.

The Gestapo will pass -
There shall be silence
Broken by cawing crows
And the vixen's cry.

Strong as our pain is strong,
Our children are.

A savage peace,
The rain over Stepney.

Summer Rain

Summer rain on Stepney streets.
Dying to oneself on dirty pavments
When clouds part and sunlight floods a courtyard.
A sufi song, as ruthful as the rain.
Shit jobs for shit wages, the cockney's curse.
On their faces, a ravaged wonderful earth.

Hillside, Llangattock

We think with our shoulders.
Scraggy sheep bleating.
A disused Baptist chapel.
The blood of quarrymen and hill farmers;
Resistance of pain in the chest
...................and spat gob.
The language of hunger; alcoholic's lack.
Hardship on this hillside
Riven by lime and bracken,
.......thistle and scree.
Living for tomorrow.
Men pray with their stomachs.
Springtime in the valley
......and the hawthorn blooming.

The poems on this page were all written by David Kessel. Most are reproduced from his collected works The Ivy, Collected Poems 1970-1994 or from Outsider Poems by John Zammit, David Kessel and David Amery. A few are published here for the first time.



A schizophrenic has an existential duty towards the community in communicating by word, organisation or art his or her particular spiritual richness. As a chronic schizophrenic I want to make a few comments about the nature, politics and treatment of schizophrenia and schizophrenics.


I argue that schizophrenia is not merely a mental illness, it is also a mystical interpretation of the universe. Vicariousness is the emotional half of civilised life. Sometimes it seems that schizophrenia is one long inner and often inaccessible essay in vicariousness, of vicarious suffering. The selfishness of the schizophrenic is an outward reflection of the passivity of this otherness, this inaccessible suffering.

Schizophrenia is a diabetes of the mind due to a failure of expression of a mind-body cohering hormone during adolescence. This may be caused by prolonged lack of intimacy and/or personal invalidation during childhood, as in double-bind theory, in the genetically pre-disposed individual. Onset usually coincides with emotional and/or physical trauma.

Ronald Fairbairn writes about the child taking upon her/himself the burden of badness which appears to reside in her or his objects -unconditional (libidinal) and conditional (moral) badness. As a result of this, she/he

"can have no sense of security and no hope of redemption. The only prospect is one of death and destruction."

In this analysis, Fairbairn sees only the negative side of the problem, for the sufferer seeks redemption in the spiritualising of their ego, of their inner life. Stack Sullivan quotes Ferenczi in this respect: the sufferer is seen to

"permit anything to happen to his body, which has become to him as immaterial as the outer world. His whole narcissism retreats into the spiritual ego which is, so to speak, a citadel which still holds out, though outer and inner forts are lost".

But there is a need to get beyond the dimensions and characterisations of post-Freudian western psychoanalysis. As Christopher Caudwell put it in his study of Freud (Studies in a Dying Culture) -

"The censor, the ego, the super-ego, the id, the Oedipus complex, and the inhibition are mind deities, like the weather deities who inhabited Greek Olympus. Freud's picture of a struggle between eternal eros and eternal thanatos, between life and death instincts, between the reality principle and the pleasure principle, is only the eternal dualism of reflective barbarians, carried over by Christianity from Zoroastrianism, and now introjected by Freud into the human mind. It represents a real struggle but in terms of a western bourgeois myth."

Schizophrenia is dissociated sexuality, the inner war between the unconscious and the conscious. Splits between hate and love, action and dreams, force and tenderness, anger and consideration, fragment the sexuality, draining the body of libidinal association and the mind of carnal coherence - whence the characteristic masturbatory fantasy life or impotence of the sufferer.

I believe this dissociation occurs because of an addiction to a memory taking place at a time of personal crisis. This causes a cybernetic short-cut. This addiction may be the result of a long period or acute episode of thalamic disintegrity and insecurity consequent on the invasion by introjection of a powerful alien will, perhaps that of a parent in an impressionable child, or that of a dead pal at war. This introjection occurs together with the values and experiences of the immediate environment; so that a post-1945 experience in a soldiers child may include the introjection of the experience of the extermination camps as well as battles and the prevalent army bullshit.


At its best, the inner struggle of the schizophrenic to regain his or her individuality approaches the condition of civil war. For the alien will and the compensatory addiction have grained lives and biological forces of their own. But, using the cathexis of good inner intimate objects, the subject may make headway. This is an issue I will return to under treatment.

There is a vast amount I do not understand about the relationship of schizophrenia with time. However, together with the future block which Lidz writes about, there is a general speeding up of time which may be connected with the impatience of suppressed hunger.

The inner struggle of the schizophrenic helps to explain why he or she has the existential duty towards the community to communicating that I have spoken of, but, politically, such is the extent and depth of people's fear of the unknown world of the psyche and madness, that schizophrenics are -or could become - the modern Jews! Not only are we invalidated and demonised; often both at the same time, but we are subject to irrational and perhaps deliberate prejudice by the media. If someone with angina or, more commonly, alcoholism, murders somebody, their illness/disability is not mentioned; whereas if the murderer is schizophrenic it makes the headlines. This may or may not be deliberate. This prejudice is, perhaps, as much due to the projections of psychopathic, schizopid, 'normal' people as it is to ignorance.

I think it likely, especially given the fact that no one believes what we say, that various experiments are carried out on schizophrenics by MI5 - pharmacological, short wave radiation experiments and mind-policing and suiciding experiments.


After the closure of the big asylums many the schizophrenics 'resettled' in the community' died within their first year - of cold, neglect, and dislocation - the inadequate, friendly simple schizophrenics; the emotional, devastated hebephrenics; the intense and wordy paranoids ... we are not told about them!

Any meaningful care has to fundamentally meet the chronic invalidation and sense of futility which mark this condition.

For this reason, the "Therapeutic Community' as pioneered by Sullivan, Maxwell Jones and others is essential. The Claybury psychiatrist Dennis Martin has written a very interesting account of such an experiment in the 1960s - Adventure in Psychiatry - An experiment which survived for several years despite opposition from other doctors and managers.

Finally, I would like to say that the writings of radicals, such as R.D. Laing and David Cooper, whilst truly great philosophically, are downright dangerous, in most cases, therapeutically. Appropriate minimal medication, and even, on occasions, ECT are an essential ingredient of modern treatment, as much as existential, non-Freudian therapy. Forward to the insulin of the mind.

David Kessel 11.1.2008