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Nelson, M.C. (1971). Poetry Therapy. Edited by J. J. Leedy. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1969. 288 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(1):157-158.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(1):157-158

Poetry Therapy. Edited by J. J. Leedy. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1969. 288 pp.

Review by:
Marie Coleman Nelson

Unless the medium has indeed become the message, this volume should have been entitled Poetry in Therapy. For while a number of papers in this interesting collection report on the use of poetry as the therapeutic medium programmed experimentally with patient groups in institutional, school and agency settings, a good many of the contributions describe the emergence and utilization of poetic themes in the context of traditional individual and group therapy, and still others— more theoretical— analyze poetic process in its symbiotic, symbolic, metaphoric and communicative aspects.

Most meaningful for the psychoanalyst are the selections dealing with the emergence of poetry in the broader treatment situation— its symbolism and the therapeutic recognition of its transference aspects by the authors. Notable in this respect is an all too brief paper by Harold Greenwald (which also includes a few unusually good patient-poems) and another in the same vein by Milton M. Berger. How poetry serves to establish transference and thus pave the way for deeper therapeutic gains is touchingly illustrated in a chapter on poetry therapy with adolescents by M. R. Morrison and one on the treatment of a psychotic patient at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia by Robert E. Jones. Two co-authors reporting from the same institution— S. S. Robinson and J. K. Mowbray— describe the history of its patient publications since 1843. One, originated in 1960 as The Tatler and now called Insight, in devoting much space to the poetic productions of mental patients, reflects an early recognition of the therapeutic function of the medium.

Experimental groups ranging from selected patients reading and writing poetry in workshops to general audiences assembled for readings are reported on by A. Kramer (Hillside Hospital), C. Crootof (Postgraduate Center for Mental Health), K. F. Edgar and R. Hagley (Cumberland Hospital) and others.

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