Creative Space

Welcome to ISSTD’s new Poet’s Corner Group

Given that it is World Poetry Day on 21 March, it seems an appropriate time to write about an exciting new venture. A group of ISSTD Members has recently decided to form a group for people interested in writing, reading and listening to poetry.

The genesis for this group began some months ago. The International Psychoanalytic Association decided to hold a short story contest on pieces that had to be 2000 words or under on the theme of COVID and the prize was that the winning 30 stories would be translated into English and Spanish and published in August 2021. The book is called “The Analyst as Story Teller”.

From Freud, whose case studies read like a novel, and onwards, it has been noticeable how many psychoanalysts enjoy writing, art or music. It is another way of learning from the unconscious. Two of the 30 prize-winners are Richard Kluft, whose story is “How I got myself a superstar agent” and myself (Valerie Sinason), whose story is called “Eskimo”. It is about an elderly couple during COVID, where the man is clearly losing his faculties and being cared for by his wife. We realise through the story that the wife is hiding a medical problem of her own. As my husband and I have been isolated over this year, both of us being over 70 with underlying conditions, this story was a way of creatively dealing with the fear of how we could decline if we caught COVID! Projecting such worries into two more elderly people in the story allowed me the transitional space to deal with what was worrying me and to repair. Creative writing, like therapy, is truth seeking and finding the truth bring enrichment and containment. 

At the same time, our new President, Rosita Cortizo, was encouraging the Board to think creatively and to have a space to think of creative ventures and ideas. When I spoke of Amanda Gorman, the Youth Laureate, who read at Biden’s inauguration, I was asked whether I would think more about poetry and ISSTD. Fellow Board Member, Rick Hohfeler assisted by mentioning that his friend ISSTD Member, Phyllis Klein, was a fine poet. There are a limited number of Anglo-American literary journals, so I did not know her work, but I then read it and she really was wonderful. (Editors Note: If you are interested, we have previously published a poem of hers in ISSTD News here. Her book was also featured in NYCU here.

From this small start, I wondered if we could have an ISSTD poetry workshop group. I then wrote to other members including Warwick Middleton, Colin Ross and Na’ama Yehuda (whose novel I love) to see if they were interested. After that it became ‘word of mouth’. Phyllis told us about Jan Ewing and George Halasz from Australia and Jan Ewing told us about Quentin Dignam, also from Australia. The speed of this expansion was remarkable.  I was then told both Joan Turkus and Bethany Bjur also write creatively.

As the number grew, the chance of a half-hour performance at the ISSTD Annual Conference became possible as a social event for ISSTD and we are developing a half hour poetry reading for the Friday of the conference. We have a small group assembled and look forward to this event coming to fruition.

But we don’t plan to stop there, as we are setting up a poetry group within ISSTD. Colin Ross has suggested we are called ‘Poet’s Corner’. At this stage the idea is still being developed. We may become part of the existing Creative Arts Therapy SIG or we may be an independent but related group. This could be a Creative Writing SIG, or a more specialist ‘Poet’s Corner’. 

Whichever way we end up being structured, we are interested in growing and evolving, so we welcome new members. Readers might be interested in sending in their poems or ideas of how we can enrich ISSTD through this. ISSTD News Editor Kate McMaugh is interested in having a quarterly poetry feature if enough members are interested and able to contribute.

If you are interested in joining our group and sharing your poetry, please contact myself on:

If you are interested in reading the works of some of the members of the new Poet’s Corner, check out this article in this month’s ISSTD News to celebrate World Poetry Day.