Monday, December 26, 2011

Sight inward seeing itself

How Indeterminacy Determines Us
William Bronk

We are so little discernible as such
in so much nothing, it is our privacy
sometimes that startles us: the world is ours;
it is only ours; others that move there,
or seem to, are elsewhere, are in another world,
their world; only, we see from time to time
—shattered, as though we were nothing, or not
stable—sometimes we see what they see,
no world we know. Theirs. Strange. As though
by a momentary shift of little bits
of charges, copper were carbon and felt the weight
and valences of carbon in a changed field
of inertias and reactions, and then were copper again
in a cupreous world. We are left to wonder at
and ponder our privacy and ponder this:
we are two unknowns in a single equation, we
and our world, functions one of the other. Sight
is inward and sees itself, hearing, touch,
are inward. What do we know of an outer world?

As the office poetry reading group goes on hiatus, I offer this poem by William Bronk as one of our last subjects of study. It’s from his 1964 book The World, the Worldless, one of my favorites. I was especially intrigued by the idea of sight inward seeing itself, and the implications similarly for the sensory experiences of hearing and touching. But what proved most fascinating to us was the consideration of privacy as a way to refer to the psychic reality—conscious and unconscious—characterizing each person’s subjectivity. One view of psychic reality proposes that deep subjectivity is limited by and contained within one body; another that privacy is in fact constituted between two or more persons in interaction; and a third which suggests that subjectivity between people is created in reference to—and perhaps because of—a social third manifesting as language, or social structure, or social order. We take our privacy for granted, assuming it belongs to us. But, who and what exactly are we?

Here’s looking to 2012.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Work of the World

To Be of Use
Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Goodbye to Kate Leslie, MSW, a colleague in the work, who is moving from the Bay Area to live and work in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She introduced me to this poem, one of her favorites, and it seems apt in thinking not only about the clinical work we do but the work of poetry.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


To walk out of the field guide
and listen. To wait
for the world to approach with its dapple and hands.
Who are you?
Dreamer On A Short String.
Big Boots Chomping Through The Underbrush.
There’s an understory here, shades
of meaning, tale told by a rock
signifying everything.

To open the grammar of being seen
and let the creatures name you.
Lover Who Begins To Notice.
Figure Of Speech.

I used this poem by Sue Wheeler in a class I'm teaching to illustrate a psychodynamic approach to psychotherapy. The poem alludes to a journey, during which the speaker has the opportunity to encounter what I think is the other within oneself. Concurrent is the opportunity to nurture some sense of a complex understory that can eventually become spoken.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Poetry and Psychoanalysis at SFCP

Poetry & Psychoanalysis will resume on Sunday, February 13, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis (SFCP), 2340 Jackson Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco (entrance on Webster St). We are pleased to announce that our Guest Poet will be Brian Teare (see below) in conversation with Forrest Hamer.

Poetry & Psychoanalysis features a highly accomplished guest poet in informal conversation with one of SFCP’s poet/psychoanalysts about poetry and psychoanalysis and their shared interests in language, the unconscious, the creative process and potential difficulties in that process, as well as how we work as poets (and as analysts) to gain access to and express deep and at times seemingly ineffable human experience. Following the discussion, our guest will read some of his poems and there will be an opportunity for the audience to comment and ask questions. Books will be available for purchase after and the poet to sign them.

Our events have drawn lively audiences of poets, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, painters, poetry editors and teachers, readers of poetry and people wanting to become readers of poetry.

We welcome you to join that audience and our discussion.

Poetry and Psychoanalysis is offered through the Outreach Program of SFCP. Our events are free and open to the public. If you do plan to attend, please notify SFCP by phone at (415) 563-5818 by the Friday before so we will know how many copies of the poems to be discussed should be printed and how many chairs made available.


A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Brian Teare is the recipient of poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, and the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts. He has published poetry and criticism in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Ploughshares, St. Mark’s Poetry Project Newsletter, Seneca Review, Verse and VOLT, as well as in the anthologies Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century and At the Barriers: The Poetry of Thom Gunn. He’s published three full-length books—The Room Where I Was Born, Sight Map, and Pleasure—as well as the chapbooks Pilgrim and Transcendental Grammar Crown. On the graduate faculty of the University of San Francisco and Mills College, he lives in San Francisco, where he makes books by hand for his micropress Albion Books.


Sunday, May 1, 2011 Denise Newman in conversation with Susan Kolodny.