I am reading Adam Phillips’ latest book ‘In Writing’ where he is drawing links between reading/ writing and psychoanalysis and in the chapter around poetry Phillips quotes Lionel Trilling’s great essay ‘Freud and Literature’ where he writes that ‘the Freudian psychology is the one that makes poetry indigenous to the very constitution of the mind. Indeed the mind, as Freud sees it, is in the greater part of its tendency exactly a poetry-making organ.’
However the poetry that Freud is hearing (through the ‘most famous ears’) is not the kind of poetry that could be described as ‘good or bad’ poetry it is something particular to the attempt of the analysand to articulate the hieroglyphics; the signification of the unconscious, and so in Trilling’s later essay ‘Art and Neurosis’ – ‘Freud, by the whole tendency of his psychology, establishes the naturalness of artistic thought’ – seems more compelling because it is vaguer.
Phillips highlights three poets in this chapter who were influenced by psychoanalysis, one being the English American poet W. H. Auden who wrote a poetic elegy to the work of Freud, and Adam Phillips writes about the poem – ‘It is an extraordinary and wonderful idea that our personal pasts are a poem that we have to learn to recite. The poem has already happened – or rather, we must assume, has already been written; the question is whether we can recite it; and whether we can let ourselves falter.’