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Jenkins, L. (2012). Between Hours: A Collection of Poems by Psychoanalysts. Edited by Salman Akhtar. London: Karnac Books, 2012, 120 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 99(6):928-934.

(2012). Psychoanalytic Review, 99(6):928-934

Between Hours: A Collection of Poems by Psychoanalysts. Edited by Salman Akhtar. London: Karnac Books, 2012, 120 pp.

Review by:
Lee Jenkins, Ph.D.

It was a pleasure to read this collection of poems by ten psychoanalysts, edited by Salman Akhtar, one of the poets. Of special interest also were the Prologue and Epilogue, in which Akhtar speaks with great eloquence and clarity about the ways in which psychoanalysis and poetry are similar psychic operations with similar objectives and outcomes. Both involve the “gradual turning of private anguish into narrative that enlarges what can be thought” and felt. Both involve the use of words, to bridge and transform disparate and seemingly irreconcilable aspects of experience, transforming, as Akhtar says, the unfathomable into the accessible, what's tormenting into what's pleasurable, the hideous into the elegant, and the private into the shared.

Poetry and therapy “both illustrate dark corners of the mind and lead to the mastery of what hitherto was a subterranean madness. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that poetry is a one-man therapy and psychotherapy is a two-person poetry,” Akhtar says, as a kind of psychotherapeutic-poetic manifesto.

The Prologue provides a lucid, informed, and succinct statement of the psychotherapeutic dimensions of poetry. It makes us appreciate what the depth is and the transforming powers are of the psychoanalytic process. We come to see how the poetic process is a psychodynamic one and how and why it is aesthetically pleasing and transformative. I would like to cite here a few of Akhtar's evaluative categories, on the basis of which we can evaluate and appreciate some of the poems presented, as well as provide a rationale for what might be distinctive, unique, or interesting about the poetic practice of psychoanalysts.

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