Poetry Monday: Henry Seiden




                Henry Seiden

Happy Independence Day, everyone – at least, those of you who are in or from the U.S.A.  We shouldn’t forget that we are part of an international conversation.

Our poet today, Henry Seiden, is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who lives and practices in Forest Hills, New York.  In his professional role, he is a member of the Board of Editors of Psychoanalytic Psychology and Division/Review, journals of Division 39 of the American Psychological Association.  Within that role, he is co-author of Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide (Scribner’s, 1988), which has been translated into Chinese, Portuguese and Russian. Among his professional papers, some of which overlap with his knowledge of poetry and skill as a poet, are articles on Wallace Stevens and on using poetry in psychotherapy with children.  He is also Poetry Editor of Division/Review.

Today we are meeting him as a poet – and a very good one.  His poems have appeared in a number of journals, including Poetry, Literal Latte, Passager, Midstream, The Humanist, and Journal of the American Medical Association. A full-length collection of his poems, called Spaldeen, is forthcoming from IP Books.  The title, a word familiar to some of you, draws upon memories from his Bronx, NY boyhood.

The three poems that follow, all of which were first published in Poetry, appear in Spaldeen under the heading  From an Analyst’s Notebook.

                                           Irene Willis

                                         Poetry Editor


Case Report

I thought this would be a hard case:
a shell and only a little softer inside;
a walnut, maybe, the convoluted nut-meat
like two halves of a petrified brain.

I was no stranger to shells:
the egg you’re careful not to crack,
the oyster which defies you to crack it,
the lobster you let cook in its own juice.

Then I saw: Oh, I said, an avocado
–leathery, then the soft soap, then
we would get to the impossible pit.

And there would be a ripening
like a mango, like a melon:
the sweetness a kind of dying really,
the way the mother dies
for the sake of the child.


Four O’Clock Hour,

                                      Mozart on the radio in the waiting room

In the pauses one can hear the sound of the flute,
                            through the closed door, diminished, but somehow pure.

The oboe is a cry baby; the operatic voice intrudes;
                            the violin pleads its case but fails to move me.

The tuttis get obscured. But the flute comes through:
                            small ripple of inevitability, each note following

logical on the note that comes before– but more,
                            the way a sentence is words but more than words.

And true, the way sighing is.  Not a discovery
                            smaller thing, a rising, a reconciling


Bird’s Nest

~The psychoanalytic third: a term of art referring to the jointly created, unique, unconscious life of each analytic pair

What about the nest the sparrows have built
between the separating boards
under the overhanging roof of my office?

What about the faint scratching?
Is the psychoanalytic third aware of the scratching,
of the vulnerability—

to the vicissitudes: the wind, a storm,
the neighbor’s cat? Is the third troubled
by thoughts of the cat?  Or by my intention

(as yet unarticulated) to call the roofer?
Or will it leave this to me
in my separate ambivalence?

What of the parenting, the feeding
of hatchlings?  Our third must think
(however it thinks) about parents and hatchlings.

And the damage?  Even to
my compassion.  Damage is,
after all, what we’re here about.


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