Monday, November 30, 2009


The best scientists and the cutting edge physicians and surgeons are artists. It has been said that :

The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.” Auguste Rodin

“In some spiritual traditions, salamanders represent the soul which is purified by fire but cannot be destroyed. This metaphor arises from a piece of ancient folklore that asserts: “If a salamander is thrown into the fire, it will emerge unharmed. “ The tradition has its origins in the habits of the salamandra salamandra. A forest native, the salamandra salamandra tends to hide in fallen leaves, rotting limbs and tree trunks. In earlier times, when human beings gathered fuel for their fires and added these materials to the hearth, quite often salamanders would emerge, seeming to arise from the heart of the flames. There are many different types of salamanders and one of these is the Fire Salamander. This may be where the origins of “the phoenix from the ashes” comes from. This is where the name Phoenix Therapeutics comes from.

You cannot move forward and grow without taking a risk and some of the poems which follow are about risk and renewal. As a recently qualified scientist this is appreciated, as the years pass it goes away to be replaced by a mechanical approach based on minimal error. We grow old because telomere length shortens, because the number of our stem cells decline and because we lose the capacity to take risk.

The poems therefore are not about rage or loss of life, as in the lines from Dylan Thomas : “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. It is about a different sort of death and about renewal, because as Albert Schweitzer said : “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he still lives.”

And so these poems are for me about stem cells and renewal. They are about what gets me out of bed in the morning.

A Fish out of Water

It starts very slowly, something very small
It emerges from somewhere not known at all
a belief in something dreamed, an aching in the heart
a desire to do something right, a desire to be a part

Of something outside yourself, more sensed than seen
maybe off-the-wall a bit, but not a smoke screen
So you move forward slowly, you take an unexpected chance
it makes you feel vulnerable as you slowly advance

It is the other side of the coin, a different sort of dream
where the most beautiful things cannot be seen
tasted or touched but felt, deep in the heart
where your armour and ego will not play a part

And you must be robust to control your own fear
With intensity diffused and the moment very near
What happens in that moment is something quite new
And the lasting effect is a re-defined you

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