On a beautiful Sunday morning in early February at SFCP, the following poem could be heard:
I knew not the Temple of Amassed Incense- -
For several miles, I entered cloudy peaks:
Ancient trees, a path without people,
Deep in the mountains, a bell from what place?
The sound of a spring: choking steep stones,
Sun’s color: cooling green pines.
On the cusp of evening, at the bend of an empty pond,
Sitting in meditation, I master the poison dragon.
This eighth century Chinese poem, “Passing by the Temple of Amassed Incense,” was first read in Chinese, then in a literal English translation, and finally in the translation above, at the first Poetry and Psychoanalysis event for the year. This event, “Translating the Ineffable: A Reading of Classical Chinese Poetry,” featured Paula Versano, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Chinese Program at UC Berkeley. Before Dr. Versano’s presentation, Alice Jones set the mood in her introduction reflecting on language, psychoanalysis and Chinese poetry, noting that this event was also in honor of Chinese New Year.
We were introduced to the beauty and ambiguity of language, temporality and the role of subjectivity in Chinese poetry. Dr. Versano led us through a reading of several classical poems, some of which she had translated, talked about the principles of the structure of the poetry and invited us to think with her about the possible meanings. With a lively and engaging manner, she told us about the experience of translation and studying Chinese poetry during a trip through China, following in the footsteps of Li Po, the renowned ancient Chinese poet. The group discussion was sophisticated and thoughtful; it was truly an enriching experience as these events-- usually not lectures, but rather conversations with readings by guest poets--have tended to be.
Now in its sixth year, Poetry and Psychoanalysis brings to the analytic community the liveliness and immediacy of poetry in a series of conversations between poets and analysts about language, the creative process and the unconscious. This program reaches a wider audience as well: poets, writing professors, MFA students, literary journal editors and artists. A number of distinguished and widely published poets have been guests including LA Times Book Prize winner and recipient of an Academy of American Poets Chancellor’s Fellowship, Brenda Hillman, a former San Francisco poet laureate, Devorah Major and Ron Silliman, author of 24 volumes of poetry and literary criticism, and founder of the Language Poetry Movement. Each poet, who is informally interviewed by Susan Kolodny, Program Chair, Alice Jones or Forrest Hamer, reads some of their poems and responds to comments and questions from the audience. The guest poets discuss how particular poems came into being, and reflect on the sources of their images and themes, their use of language and of silence, and on their creative process.
Poetry and Psychoanalysis will have the opportunity to have its programs enhanced by the newly established J. David Frankel Memorial Fund in support of Poetry and Psychoanalysis. David Frankel was drawn to the program and frequently attended and participated in it, and the fund honors his deep interest in creativity, poetry and psychoanalysis, and their intersection. This fund will allow the program to thrive as well continue SFC P’s outreach mission, a mission that can only enrich our psychoanalytic endeavors and make psychoanalysis a living part of the academic and creative communities around us. We are truly grateful to Paula Levine who has created this fund in memory of her husband.
Contributions to the fund are tax deductible, and can be sent to the Center to the attention of Jeff Miller, noting on the check, “J. David Frankel Memorial Fund for Poetry and Psychoanalysis.”