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Octopus Mind by Rachel Carney

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'Octopus Mind' plays with an array of rich and original metaphors to explore the intricacies of neurodiversity, perception and the human mind. These poems articulate the desire to understand and be understood by oneself and others in a complex world. They observe the nuances of creativity, art, relationships, and self-expression through the lens of neurodiversity, reflecting on the poet's experience of being diagnosed with dyspraxia as an adult.

They delve into the challenges of neurodiversity, but also reveal its gifts. Poems respond to visual artists like Gwen John, whose paintings break new ground for women representing their own visions of themselves. Other poems suggest that this can be a struggle however, as Pablo Picasso paints not a woman but his own despair in 'Blue Nude', while Elizabeth Siddal reflects on her own image, fetishized by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and Henri Rousseau's painting becomes an outlet for self-deception and frustration.

Some of the most stunning poems in this collection perform a kind of magic or sleight of hand, as dyspraxia is explored through unique and remarkable metaphors, including a series of artefacts in a museum, a walk along the seashore, and a swaying tree. The 'Octopus Mind' evokes the possibilities of what it means to be human, through obsession, self-deception, realisation, and acceptance. The speaker in 'Octopus Mind' is endearingly humble and we journey with them beyond self-criticism to reclaiming the self.

In 'Growing', the narrator declares 'I will grow // into myself, climbing, steady, / grip by grip, leaf by leaf'. In 'Understood' the narrator describes the complex process of re-imagining one's place in the world, armed with new knowledge: 'Slowly, we adjust / our own soft ignorance / unroll our prejudice / in gentle waves.'




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