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> > > Anthony Hurford: The Staff of Asclepius

Anthony Hurford came to DAO via the Survivor's Poetry blog. He submitted a selection from his forthcoming poetry pamphlet due to be published by Survivors' Press in summer 2014

watercolour depicting a yellow rod and a green serpent

The rod of Asclepius © Anthony Hurford

I always loved poetry, perhaps took it for granted. Definitely did not allow myself it – somehow some message grew in me that I was not cool enough, I hadn’t taken literature options in study, and without it’s guidance and as my path drew away from this nourishment it seemed more and more like I was a confused person who had no right to get it (even whilst I’d have argued it was everyone’s right).

The idea of writing poetry would have seemed a fantasy, it just didn’t happen to me, what I might say would come out as bogus as my lostness seemed. Even what I really felt and knew often did not seem to come out right, translated into something else and at my worst in defending this against attack.

So, I came to be a Survivor of mental distress. Later I trained as a Person-centred counsellor and unexpectedly, whilst doing my research, found myself unable to sleep one night until I got up and wrote some lines down. From that I began to write. Took some classes, they stopped and perhaps in that time I started to hear what was important best, what I needed to say – regardless of what others may hear or want to hear, but respecting something in us all.

I took some more classes and came to be mentored by Simon Jenner of Survivors’ Poetry. My approach is rooted in my counselling training and research, the innumerable ways it helped me to understand and accept myself and others. There is self-expression, that may be therapeutic, and there is the awareness that the poems are only an expression of some way of living, partially therapeutic.

I hope they step away from simple revelation and internal observation into observation of the world – yet at the same time I follow Carl Rogers in believing what is most personal may also be most general, and believe in writing therapy. I cannot define where the poems may go before I start them, somewhere honest I hope and fear. Yet some speak of situations that are not apparently true.

My working title for the pamphlet Survivors’ are mentoring is ‘The Staff of Asclepius’ , a healing symbol to see the world through. I did start to chase poetry, perhaps to prove my humanity, to myself most of all – or more than that to feel fully human after illness and medication, to feel alive. But I’m not sure it can be chased in the long run, it has to be lived and then it may witness, occasionally. Publication was not initially my aim; to do so is also a reality test.

Oracular confusion

Snake eyed, tongued and partial - 
your sulphuric atmosphere scorned, brimstoned
my blood; heart stones worried through flesh
to words full of holes:
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
And all the rest.


Each day floating
like a leaf downstream.

An illusion of purpose
in the drift of what I mean.

We do not get to keep it
not from what I’ve seen.


Assured again
it’s not chemical lobotomy.
So that’s alright then.
Even though
I dreamt
my mirrored self
with scar at temple,
a different sex,


My every day is typical of you.
That is what you do.
Your enchanted head band
mutes whispers of the gods.

Before, I worshipped living to sleeplessness,
unable to let go. Hypnos left me,
a play thing for his kin, 
Pan nodded by.

So, seven years I spent in shelter,
‘Nil periculum’ your motto. 
‘Heal thyself’ my own.

I did too; Magic band removed.
Grasses blew, sparkle in the waves.
Everything intense, everything alive.
Worship renewed.

Then, Bacon peeled my eyes.
A hurricane blew.
I knew one greater than you.

Now, I eat your body daily. 
Communion, of sorts.
Of human gathering.
Antidote to fear – theirs, my own.

A Golden Calf,
a scientific-fetish god,
you colour me -
my worship is not all mine.

My god.

* written on a pill

Meditation Course

With last bell a trumpet fanfare, 
like Miles from Aranjuez. 

I open eyes to 
bright blue windowed skies 
every thing more itself.


Do I need you to
smile to smile myself to help
you smile? Sometimes, yes.

The broken rocks howled
their lost unity to the sky,
sacrilege to time.

The Word Spider

The consummate aesthete
has had his fill of the word-garden.
Now he lives in print’s cracks.
No more rose lawn dance
of nominal innocence.
His analysis of narrative webs
has set him spinning silk thread,
my god, he’s grown six more legs.
Spider aesthete, self-esteem
dependant on flagelliform traps,
patterns perceived re-secreted
thread-air etchings never a rose itself.
What’s left is only to show his finesse
and its lack in all of the rest.

Mozart Giggle

My Mozart giggle right outta Am-a-
deus, “I’m a god, yes, hell, yes”, I’d thought
far-fetched yet my body unlocks my av-
ian eye, titters release me, laughter
not so much at everyone else as at
myself in everyone else, so sincere
in Mynah sarcasms in our cage-life-
term with parrot mirror, even jungle
dawns but another raising of the cover.
Spring like from deep this song-shower chimes me
downstream into the sea of response, bird
song, creation, that demands I croak back.
Yet in clear vision danger lies hidden, 
Stop. No. Stop. Yes...