4 , 2004
James speaks to Carol Batton, described as the poet laureate
of the mental health "survivors'" movement.
no one quite like Carol Batton.
bubbly 52-year-old is the unheralded superstar of street poetry.
Some say she's the poet laureate of the mental health "survivors'"
chatty as Ruby Wax, sometimes as daft as Norman Wisdom, and with
infective wit and intelligence, Batton has penned her verse for
who lives in Manchester, is well known within the city's poetry
circles. Manchester's City Life magazine describes her as a "genius";
to poet Lemn Sissay she is quite simply "brilliant".
Batton has just one collection of published work to her name. Most
of her poems are on photocopied pieces of paper which she hands
out to everyone she meets at political, Quaker, ecological, and
mental health meeting and conferences she attends around Manchester.
is no insular poet. She freely distributes her poetry in the trendy
wine bars of Manchester. She's ebullient with a wild spirit. An
entertainer. As I said, there really is no one quite like Carol
poetry is also unique - three to 20 liners of quirky observations
on the big things in life - nature, misery, joy, war, peace. And,
of course, psychiatry and mental health.
who is diagnosed with manic depression, first got to see the inside
of a psychiatric ward in 1971 when she was admitted to Cheadle Royal
Hospital, Greater Manchester, for three weeks observation.
was always active and fast and my father thought psychiatry could
help," is how Batton remembers it.
1983 Batton was admitted to North Manchester General Hospital, and
prescribed Lithium which she has been taking ever since. But she
says Lithium has made suicidal.
one of the things about Batton. Perhaps she is one of those talented,
unconformist wordsmiths whose mix of flamboyancy, vulnerability
and oddness has been defined as mental illness?
Batton says: "I am an emotional and I do need support. I do
need to be able to access people quickly."
the last time that Batton attended an appointment with a psychiatrist
was 10 years ago. So, is she comfortable to be known as a 'service
yes I am taking the tablets," she laughs. "I'm mad and
proud and loony."
I am insane
I talk to other people
People are afraid of me
Because I talk to them
So they medicate me
For talking to people who are paranoid
It flit by my eyes quite suddenly
And over the wind and the wall
why was I looking at other things
and hardly saw beauty at all
How can I hope for world peace,
When I can't get you to say, 'Hello'
In the streets.
It's only got one side effect
You really must give it a try
It's only got one side effect
It makes you wanna die
Fright (£6.95) by Carol Batton is available at www.amazon.co.uk.
a picture of Carol Batton
originally appeared in Open
Ian Blackwell, finance advisor, Manchester.
July 10, 2004
"I met Carol on the train on Thurday evening after a bad day.
I sat next to her and she started chatting to when I wasn't in the
mood to be speaking to anyone.
a while she left me with some poetry (which I thanked her for) and
left the train. I must say I was touched by this and was impressed
by the words. This is why I have looked on the web in order to find
out more about this lady."
Emma Davidson, executive manager, Manchester
May 19, 2006
I met Carol on Thomas Street in Manchester. She touched my heart
in ways I have never known, and left me feeling uplifted.
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