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Dickinson, A. (2005). Canham, Hamish & Satyamurti, Carole (Eds.). Acquainted with the Night. Psychoanalysis and the Poetic Imagination. London: Karnac, 2003. Pp. 213. Pbk. £16.99. J. Anal. Psychol., 50(1):110-112.

(2005). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(1):110-112

Canham, Hamish & Satyamurti, Carole (Eds.). Acquainted with the Night. Psychoanalysis and the Poetic Imagination. London: Karnac, 2003. Pp. 213. Pbk. £16.99

Review by:
Adrian Dickinson

This volume in the Tavistock Clinical Series consists of nine different chapters, all linked by a common assumption that, in Ronald Britton's words, ‘poetry at its best provides a special route to psychic reality’ (p. 114). The thread running through all the papers is the struggle to mourn, to transform loss, and to find and make meaning in words.

In her paper, ‘The Vale of Soul-Making’, Margot Waddell develops themes she established with Meg Harris Williams in The Chamber of Maiden Thought (1991) of the growth of the mind coming about through the capacity to engage with and suffer experience, and how poetry, indeed all art, is both a containment and an expression of that engagement. She reminds us, in Owen Barfield's words, that ‘words are not bottles’ (that is, with a fixed content), and that in the language of poetry ‘metaphor attempts to arouse cognition of the unknown by suggestion from the known’ (p. 11). The nature of metaphor and symbolization is central, and the paradox of words being both limiting and also rich and suggestive is well explored in her detailed analysis and elucidation of poems by Anne Stevenson and Carole Satyamurti, who in her paper, ‘First Time Ever’, writes as a poet about the process of making a poem. She considers, and allows, the notions of writing as reparation and as containment, but stresses what she has found from her own experience, that Winnicott's idea of potential space, where subject and object, me and not-me, are con-fused (in Marion Milner's. phrase), comes closest to what is involved in the process of writing.

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