Background

Simon Miles

The Late Simon Miles reading his poetry

An extract from Simon Miles’s commentary on The Identity Parade

“As part of my work as a writer, I work within the field of mental-health education, as well as poet/performer/visual artist. The Identity Parade is a place of coalescence for each of these rôles.

“The intention is to tell an arresting story of visionary / shamanic experience. The telling of it challenges the conventional vocabulary of madness. The medical terms for ‘mental-illness’ are never used.

“Following my recovery from breakdown in 1994, I began, what in retrospect looks like, an exhaustive enquiry into what happened, to determine the ‘Identity’ of it all.

“A purely medical explanation was inadequate. I wanted to look at the psychological, artistic, spiritual and creative aspects of my own ‘mental illness’ and mental health. Writings on shamanism provided the key to a vocabulary which adequately described what I had been through myself.

“In The Identity Parade I wanted to express Simon Paternoster’s remarkable story in an original, dramatic way. Traditional cultures make diagrams and maps of their cosmological landscapes. The locations in the City of Ov are Simon’s equivalent (or co-valent) of such maps.

“Pages of The Identity Parade include the motif of torn-up street-maps, to illustrate the geography of Simon’s ordeals. The pages of The Identity Parade are, to some extent, prompted by the circumstances of the day on which they’re made. Following the same principle, the activities of Simon and Zoë happen in the same way.

“[In making each page] I don’t so much plan things out beforehand, I just see what they/I can do with the resources I/we/they have in front of me/us.

Joan Halifax* says dance and trance are central to shamanism. This is mirrored in the nature of the text, particularly through Zoë’s pages. The descriptive language of Shamanism provided a place where I found a comprehensible vocabulary to match. By making the book, I had found means of expression which corresponded to the intra-psychic process I had undergone.”

Simon Miles

*Joan Halifax – SHAMAN The Wounded Healer”
Thames & Hudson (ISBN: 050081029X)