These poems represent the author`s experience of severe illness and near death. The author`s final few months as a psychotherapist in a National Health Service clinic had been interrupted by the illness, and so his professional identity became a preoccupation. Reflections on the state of the profession came from a new perspective.
The title piece, Death of a Psychotherapist, is a collage of words and images that express the mental fragmentation of that period as well as the search for meaning and wholeness. Dreams, or hallucinations, were indistinguishable from reality. Thoughts and memories came from other poets, especially the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy, who seemed to be present in these “visions” and helped symbolize the trauma.
The shorter poems came after the acute phase of the author`s illness, which is still the central theme but as a challenge being met rather than an overwhelming immersion. They are altogether quieter and more meditative than the long poem but capture some specific experiences that may be common to those who go through such intense periods of illness and recovery. The poems are followed by a short discussion of their context and process of creation.
"The creative locale of John Woods’s poems is the midpoint between rapture and reflection, between delirium and vigilance, and ultimately between life and death. From this dizzying precipice, his words fly out like well-meaning pigeons of hope, leaving the sound of fluttering wings to last long in memory. As a result, we become the poet’s partners on his journey from risk to recovery, from danger to dignity, and from enforced helplessness to enlivening triumph!"
- Salman Akhtar, psychoanalyst and poet; author of Blood and Ink
"Sharp-edged and powerful, this collection represents a journey recognisable to those affected by life-threatening illness, to other worlds “of gods, ghosts and shadows”. With Homer and Cavafy as guides, these poems of madness and sanity, death and identity, keep alive a “glimmer in the dark”, and are just as much about re-birth, as they show how both poetry and psychotherapy reach within and beyond."
- Margot Waddell, psychoanalyst, Tavistock Clinic
"The rawness of this book is extraordinary. It takes one into the heart of John Woods’s experience of disintegration and recovery in the course of his treatment for cancer. The hallucinatory quality of the poems – which are powerful – and the more objective reflections of the essays create a binocular vision of a remarkable episode that is bound to enlarge the reader’s own perceptions of both death and life."
- Michael Parsons, British Psychoanalytical Society
About the Author:
John Woods is a Member of the British Psychotherapy Foundation and the Institute of Group Analysis and a Consultant Psychotherapist at the Portman Clinic. He works with adults and children who have shown harmful sexual behavior. He is the author of Boys Who Have Abused: Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy with Victims/Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) and has written articles on various clinical topics, dramatic monologues, and full-length plays dealing with psychotherapeutic engagement with trauma and abuse. He has recently written about the harmful effects of unregulated internet pornography.