The Motive for Metaphor: Brief Essays on Poetry and Psychoanalysis

Author(s) : Henry M. Seiden

The Motive for Metaphor: Brief Essays on Poetry and Psychoanalysis

Book Details

  • Publisher : Routledge
  • Published : November 2015
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 164
  • Category :
    Culture and Psychoanalysis
  • Category 2 :
  • Catalogue No : 37225
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782203261
  • ISBN 10 : 1782203265

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This book is a small anthology: each chapter a kind of meditation—on poetry and psychoanalysis; on a poem, sometimes two; on poetry in general; on thought itself. The poems are beautiful, some are contemporary, some are classical and well worth a reader’s attention.

“The motive for metaphor” is the title of a short poem of Wallace Stevens in which he says he is “happy” with the subtleties of experience. He likes what he calls the “half colours of quarter things,” as opposed to the certainties, the hard primary “reds” and “blues.” To grasp and make sense of what is elusive (and beautiful), that is, for the essential and puzzling condition of poetry, we are obliged to make metaphors. The same is perhaps true of psychoanalysis—this is the essential argument of the book.

The chapters were originally poetry columns that the author wrote for Psychologist-Psychoanalyst and Division/Review (both journals of the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association). The chapters are arranged alphabetically by poet but otherwise follow no conceptual order. The author hopes that they might be read that way too—the book to be picked up, a few chapters read and thought about, and then put aside for reading more at another time.

With a Foreword by Nancy McWilliams, PhD.

Reviews and Endorsements

‘Henry M. Seiden’s The Motive for Metaphor exemplifies Freud’s admonition that the best way to deepen our appreciation of psychoanalytic process is through intense study of the arts, in this case, poetry. Both poets and psychotherapists will find sustenance in these essays. Seiden brings a deep respect for both the poetic and psychoanalytic process allowing each perspective to refract and illuminate the other.’
- William A. MacGillivray, PhD, ABPP, Past President, Division of Psychoanalysis, American Psychological Association

‘Like Walt Whitman, Henry M. Seiden is “large and contains multitudes” – taking on poets of various times and places, finding unexpected and delightful links to psychoanalysis, and sharing honest and personal reflections of his responses as a reader and fellow poet. All of the pieces in this volume are short and succinct; they invite rereading, and are well worth savouring. Indeed, I read many of the pieces in this book when they were originally published, and it was a pleasure to find that I appreciated them even more the second time around. Anyone who is interested in the intersection of the humanities and psychoanalysis will learn a great deal from reading Seiden’s work.’
- Elliot Jurist, PhD, The City College of New York and Graduate Center of the City University of New York

‘Psychoanalysis and poetics have been joined since Freud noted Schiller’s letter to a young poet to illustrate the state of mind conducive to psychoanalytic reflection. Psychoanalysts like Sharpe, Lacan, Bion, and Winnicott have reflected on this link and indeed have built their theories of the clinical process on it. Henry M. Seiden’s lively and evocative essays, collected in this volume, stand firmly in this great tradition, and contribute new perspectives to it. He generally approaches the link from the side of poetry and then examines the interplay with the psychoanalytic process. The results frequently shed new light on both psychoanalysis and poetry and the cumulative effect is to enliven our appreciation of their common roots.’
- David Lichtenstein, PhD, co-founder, faculty, and supervisor at the Apres-Coup Psychoanalytic Association; editor, DIVISION/Review: A Quarterly Psychoanalytic Forum

About the Author(s)

Henry M. Seiden, PhD, ABPP, is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who lives and practices in Forest Hills, New York. He has published poetry in a number of journals including Poetry, Literal Latte, Passager, Midstream and the Journal of the American Medical Association. He has also published a chapbook called Tinnitus. His published professional papers include articles on Wallace Stevens, Ernest Hemingway, the longing for home, the use of metaphor in psychotherapy, on using poetry in psychotherapy with children, and on mindfulness, among other subjects.

He is co-author (with Christopher Lukas) of Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide (Jessica Kingsley, 2007), which was originally published by Scribners and is now in its fourth printing. It has been translated into Chinese, Portuguese and Russian and has been in English as well as American editions.

Seiden is a member the Board of Editors of Psychoanalytic Psychology. He has been a member at large of the Board of Directors of Division 39, the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association, and is currently its Publications Chair.

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