The Creative Unconscious Psychoanalytic Poetry Festival 2015

An exploration of the creative unconscious

Session 1:

Gerry Byrne (psychotherapist)
Introductory Thoughts

Gerry Byrne is a consultant nurse and child and adolescent psychotherapist, working in the NHS and privately in Oxford. He is clinical lead for the Family Assessment and Safeguarding Service (Oxon, Wilts and BaNES) and the Infant Parent Perinatal Service (Oxon). With two colleagues he runs the annual Children in Troubled Worlds conference which promotes the contributions psychoanalytic thinking and the arts can make to work with troubled children and with Janet Bolam, theatre director and writer, he runs Between the Lines – writers and psychotherapists in conversation.

Nuar Alsadir (poet and psychoanalyst)
Night Fragments

In a state of creative impasse, the poet began setting her alarm for 3:15 a.m. to write down phrases from sleep as a way of mining the unconscious. These night fragments granted the poet access to a syntax that, despite being her own was largely unknown to her, thereby creating new poetic possibilities.

Nuar Alsadir is a poet, writer, and psychoanalyst. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Grand Street, Poetry London, and The Poetry Review; and a collection of her poems, More Shadow Than Bird, was published by Salt in 2012. She is fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and is on the faculty at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Session 2:

Maurice Riordan (poet and translator)
‘George, Call the Sheriff: Yeats and the Unruly’

Yeats understood his poetry was equestrian. It was the exercise of skill and control over the vitality of the unconscious in the struggle to govern the dreamlife of the body and its desires. This talk explores the force of the unconscious in Yeats’s life, including some of its more amusing manifestations, as well as emphasizing the quasi-violent tension between order and lawlessness in the great poems.

Maurice Riordan’s poetry collections include The Water Stealer (Faber, 2013) and The Holy Land (Faber, 2007). He has recently edited The Finest Music: Early Irish Lyrics (Faber, 2014). He is Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University and the editor of The Poetry Review.

Beatrice Garland (poet and psychoanalyst)  in conversation with Ron Britton (psychoanalyst)

Dr Ronald Britton talks with Beatrice Garland about the parallel lives that being both a poet and a psychoanalyst involves. She talks about the influence her two analyses, and her subsequent work as an analyst, has had upon her capacity to write; and reads a selection of poems that derive from unconscious mental process. How, coming from a distinguished scientific background, and in the face of some opposition from the parental generation, does one become both a psychoanalyst and a poet?

Beatrice Garland is a poet and psychoanalyst. After a first degree in English Literature, she worked as a National Health Service clinician, teacher and researcher in psychological medicine. She has won both the National Poetry Competition and the Strokestown International Poetry Prize, and was short-listed for the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize. Her first volume, The Invention of Fireworks, was published in 2013 by Templar Press, and in 2014 was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Best First Collection among The Forward Prizes. She lives and works in London, although the poems in her first volume are mainly concerned with life and death in the natural world. She is currently at work on a second volume.

Dr Ron Britton is a training and supervising analyst with the British Psychoanalytical Society. He first trained as a doctor, and as a child psychiatrist was Chair of the Department of Children and Parents at the Tavistock Clinic, where he was involved in treatment of deprived children and their parents. This experience was influential to his psychoanalytic thinking where he maintains the importance of ‘childhood’ as a formative experience. His theoretical background is that of Freud, Klein and post-Kleinians. Additionally, he brings his own wide interests, including philosophy, theology, science, and particularly, his passion for poetry, which he uses as a basis for psychological understanding.

Britton’s major contributions have been drawn together in two books; Belief and Imagination (1998) and Sex, Death, and the Superego (2003). Throughout his work Britton emphasises the Oedipus complex as the basis of psychic reality, and the clinical relevance of defences against awareness of this. His most recent publication is Between Mind and Brain: Models of the Mind and Models in the Mind (2015)

Session 3:

Kathryn Maris (poet and teacher)
I Remember

Kathryn Maris discusses ‘I Remember’, a cult classic poem-memoir by New York School artist and writer Joe Brainard, and other poets such as Louis MacNeice and Lyn Hejinian, who have also written transformatively about memory. Maris will talk about how these poetic models were used in a recent writing workshop, in order to generate poems which draw on hidden or unexpected memories; and invite some of the participating poets to share the work which resulted.

Kathryn Maris is originally from New York and has lived in London since 1999. Her most recent poetry collection is God Loves You (Seren 2013). Her poems have appeared in Granta, Poetry London, The Poetry Review, The Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best British Poetry 2012 and 2015. She teaches at the Poetry School.

Vahni Capildeo (poet)  with Jeremy Hardingham (performance artist)
Interminable Noise

Performative reading with unconscious and conscious patternings followed by discussion.

Vahni Capildeo (b. Trinidad) writes poetry and prose. Her latest books are Utter (Peepal Tree, 2013), inspired by her time as a lexicographer at the Oxford English Dictionary, and Measures of Expatriation (Carcanet, forthcoming 2016). She has worked for Commonwealth Writers and was the Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellow 2014 at the University of Cambridge. Her poetry may be found in New Poetries VI (Carcanet, 2015).

Jeremy Hardingham was born in London and raised in Hong Kong and England’s midlands. He got a degree in English Literature at the University of Cambridge in 1997. He has worked in a wide range of jobs, from brand consultancy to rubbish collection, but his principle work has been in relation to theatre, poetry and education. After 18 months as a writer and workshop manager for the prisons charity, ‘Escape Artists’, Jeremy became the first Drama Studio Manager of the newly created Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio in the basement of the Faculty of English, Cambridge, 2006. In this position–a combination of technical manager and artist in residence–he facilitates numerous events and performances, bringing students together with artists from around the world, as well as curating and enabling events of diverse groups throughout the immediate international community.

In his residency in the studio, he has developed a body of performance work which combines scholastic studies with physical and sculptural performance experiments. This has produced a series of critical performance essays on violence, song, movement, audience relations and objects in space. He has worked consistently with Shakespeare in relation to many other writers and artists of many ages and fields. In particular, during a period of culture-changing technological development, this work has concentrated on live creative acts of significant consequence. This concentration on the live, and the living resistance to recording has instantiated a dialogue with mediation, and how this complex hybridity informs the nature of human action.

Session 4:

Sowon Park (lecturer)
Memory and the New Unconscious

The unconscious, in so far as it refers to the processes of the mind that are not conscious, has always been a central concept in the arts. In science, however, the unconscious only found brief legitimacy in models of the unconscious/subconscious developed by Freud and William James before being relegated to the margins by the ascendency of positivist models of knowledge. Behaviorism dismissed ideas about the unconscious because they could not be empirically verified; logical positivist orthodoxy rendered what is not testable and falsifiable as ‘meaningless’. In this vein, Karl Popper famously claimed that psychoanalysis was a pseudo-science. However, new and ongoing discoveries in cognitive neuroscience during the last twenty years demonstrate that very little of what goes on in the brain is actually conscious, making it possible not only to re-examine earlier models of the unconscious but to witness the role of the unconscious in the human mind as the new frontier of knowledge. This paper will chart the relations between the unconscious and memory as they have been configured in psychoanalytic criticism and cognitive neuroscience to consider the innovations that might emerge from the correlation.

Dr Sowon S Park is Lecturer in English at Oxford University where she teaches Victorian and Modern literature. Previously she taught at Cambridge University and Ewha University, Seoul. Her publications on cognitive literary criticism are ‘Beside Thinking.’ The Canadian Review of Comparative Literature (April 2014): 5-12; ‘The Dilemma of Cognitive Literary Criticism.’ Gildea, Niall et al eds., English Studies: The State of the Discipline, Past, Present, Future (Palgrave, 2014): 67-81; “The ‘Hard’ Problem from a Literary Perspective: Cognitive Literary Criticism.” Neohelicon (Springer, June 2014): 347-358; ‘“Who are these people?”: Anthropomorphism, Dehumanization and the Question of the Other.’ Arcadia (De Gruyter, May 2013):150-163; ‘Science and Literature’: Reflections on Interdisciplinarity and Modes of Knowledge.’ Reading Live: Literature, Science and the Humanities: Primerjalna Knjizevnost (Summer 2012): 143-152; ‘The “Feeling of Knowing” in Mrs Dalloway: Neuroscience and Woolf.’ Contradictory Woolf: Select Papers from the Twenty-First Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf (May 2012): 108 – 114. She is the convenor of the Unconscious Memory seminar series ( and President of the Literary Theory Committee of the ICLA.

Annie Freud (poet) in conversation with Alan Buckley (poet and psychotherapist)
The Room That Isn’t There

Poet Annie Freud reads a selection of poems which were inspired by dreams. In conversation with poet and psychotherapist Alan Buckley Annie talks about how her poems come into being, her experience of psychotherapy and the influence of her Freud family background.

Alan Buckley‘s pamphlet Shiver (tall-lighthouse) was a Poetry Book Society choice, and he has been commended three times in the Bridport Prize. He works in Oxford as a psychotherapist, and as a school writer-in-residence for the charity First Story. A link to his essay on poetry, creativity and the unconscious can be found on the Magma website.




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