Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Psychotherapist, a Poem, Pythagoras, and a Publication

White Lodge went by several names.

It was known as The College of Psychotherapeutics.  White Lodge had several aims.  One was to help others become healed and live unfractured lives.  Another was to train others to help others become healed and live unfractured lives.  The ultimate purpose behind those aims at White Lodge was that they would work themselves out of their jobs, that those jobs would no longer be needed.

As part of the work of White Lodge, a little magazine journal was regularly published, The Psychotherapist.  I received that journal for several years but, as with everything else from that time, I destroyed them, threw them away or sold them in my Christian evangelical zeal.  The journal contained articles from the staff and students at White Lodge, poetry, stories.  Always an interesting read, if issues were still available as a bumper compilation volume or a digital file then I'd get hold of them.

I wrote poems.  I submitted a couple informally to The Pyschotherapist.  Very informally, as I probably had never been intending to submit them for anything.  And I think they both appeared in print.  The short one certainly did - a triolet.

I'd been taking an adult education writing class in the evenings - I'd had to get permission from the school headmaster to take the class because I wasn't an adult.  An entertaining class, we were set homework each week to write very different things in very different formats.  One week had had to write short poems - haiku, clerihews, triolets, and a longer poem, a sestina.

Until this moment I had forgotten the word sestina.  But I wrote one.  I have no idea what the 39 lines were about but seem to recall it had minor merit.  Perhaps this week I should write another.  It's a disciplined form.  Six stanzas of six lines followed by a three line envoi.  The words that end the lines of the first stanza also end the lines of the other five stanzas, but they are rotated to appear in different lines.  Lots of people have written sestinas.  Here's a link to one, The Guest Ellen at the Supper for Street People by David Ferry.  I'm a poetry ignoramus so hadn't heard of Ferry but am impressed by this poem.

The sestina is lost.  If it did turn up I'd probably be very embarrassed by it.  But I still remember one of the clerihews.

Pythagoras, Pythagoras,
You'll never quite catch up with us.
Most of your rules are out of date,
But your rule of the triangle still works great.

Very silly - but that's normal for clerihews.  Some are much more clever than mine - but I was only sixteen.  That's my excuse anyway!

And I still remember one of the triolets.  It's not exactly to the level of Thomas Hardy's triolet but, as I plead, I was sixteen.  And I'm not a poetic genius.  So this is the triolet that turned up in the pages of The Psychotherapist.  Since that time I have rarely written poems.  The only poetry I've tried this decade has been written in the last six months and is already on this blog.  And since that time I've certainly not been a published poet!

Why am I here?
I'd quite like to die.
If I did, people would cheer.
Why am I here?
Why won't people hear
When I talk and I cry?
Why am I here?
I'd quite like to die.

I knew depression.  I knew about feeling bad.  And a memory came out as I wrote.  By the time I wrote it for the class and then took it to White Lodge I was happier and did not want to die.  Later the school English teacher set us homework to write a suicide note.  We had such joyful school lessons!  Fortunately the teacher didn't turn out to be an evil cult leader, "Bring in your suicide letters children, and then we can enter into the spirit of things."  I began my note with that poem - and my note received an A+ grade.

My experiences of depression were awful.  Later experiences were worse.  But I can't claim it's all been worthless - they did at least give me good marks in an English lesson.

(This has been written without aim or plan and without any conscious memory of words like sestina)

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