Practical Poetry

From an interview with the psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips:

What do you see as the relationship between psychoanalysis and poetry?

The most obvious link is that they are both linguistic arts. Freud suggests not exactly that we speak in poetry, because poetry has line-endings, but that we potentially speak with the type of incisiveness and ambiguity that we’re most used to finding in poetry. So, to put it slightly differently: the reading of poetry would be a very good training for a psychoanalyst.

In the preface to “On Flirtation” you call psychoanalysis a “kind of practical poetry”—can you elaborate on this?

On the one hand, psychoanalysis is practical in the sense that there is an attempt to solve a problem, or to cure somebody, or at least to address their suffering. But the other thing that psychoanalysis does is that the project is to enable somebody to speak. It’s the attempt to create the conditions in which somebody can speak themselves as fully as possible.

It is as though Freud invented a setting or a treatment in which people could not exactly speak the poetry that they are, but that they could articulate themselves as fully as they are able. A session lasts 50 minutes, and it’s always at the same time each week, just like a sonnet is always 14 lines. It’s a similar thing. The form makes possible the articulation.

· @itsbdell