Writer and literary critic Al Alvarez in conversation with Ted Jacobs

Al Alvarez and Ted Jacobs

Photo: James Royall

Listen to the conversation

Listen to the Q&A session

Venue: The Freud Museum

Date: Sunday 2 November 2008

Al Alvarez taked to psychoanalyst Ted Jacobs about his work including his book The Writers Voice, an exploration of the elusive key to good writing which examines the relationship between reader and writer and compares a writer\\\\'s search for a voice and the process of psychoanalysis.

Al Alvarez (pictured left) is a poet, novelist, literary critic, anthologist and author of many highly praised non-fiction books on topics ranging from suicide, divorce and dreams (The Savage God: A Study of Suicide, Life After Marriage, Night) to poker, North Sea oil and mountaineering (The Biggest Game in Town, Offshore, Feeding the Rat). His most recent books are New and Selected Poems and The Writer’s Voice.

Ted Jacobs is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York. He is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and Past-President of the Association for Child Psychoanalysis. He serves on the editorial boards for the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Psychoanalytic Inquiry, International Journal of Infant, Child and Adult Psychotherapy and The Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis. He is the author of many papers and the book The Use of the Self: Countertransference and Communication in the Psychoanalytic Situation.


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Poetry and poker

Tuesday 2nd December, 2008| Posted by Caroline Graty

Connecting Conversations with Al Alvarez was a warm and intimate affair. Tickets had sold out and the audience squeezed together in the elegant but pleasantly domestic surroundings of the Freud Museum, formerly Sigmund Freud’s home, to listen to the author.

In a discussion peppered with his gentle, self-effacing wit (his opening gambit was: ‘There’s no way I’m going to live up to my introduction, so it’s going to be downhill all the way,’) Alvarez talked to psychoanalyst Ted Jacobs about his memories of childhood, his writing career, his tendency towards risk taking and his interests in poetry, poker, North Sea oil and rock climbing.

He shared poems on the themes of grief and happiness and talked about a suicide attempt earlier in his life and the impact of his friend Sylvia Plath’s successful attempt, which prompted him to write a book on suicide, The Savage God.

The discussion also drew out the comparisons between the art of poetry and psychoanalytic practice. Alvarez talked about the important balance between personal passions and the discipline of the poetic form, using Sylvia Plath’s poem Edge as an extreme example. ‘Here’s this girl, just about to kill herself, she’s writing a poem about what she’s going to look like when she’s dead, but she gets caught up in the image. Her obvious emotional turmoil and agony is much less important than getting the poem right.’

‘That’s reflected also in our own field,' responded Jacobs. \\'We’ve learned that one has to go deep into oneself in our work, but to be able to stand back and use oneself objectively, otherwise you’re simply responding with your own emotions.’