Call for Papers:
Poetry’s Connection to Psychohistory

Special Issue, Winter 2024
Submissions due October 1, 2023

Dear Colleagues,

We are excited to announce a Call for Papers for the Winter 2024 issue of Clio’s Psyche that delves into the intriguing and intricate relationship between poetry and psychohistory, to shed light on how these two seemingly distinct disciplines intertwine and influence one another.

Poetry, as a medium of artistic expression, and psychohistory, as a lens for understanding the collective psychological factors influencing historical events, have both offered unique insights into the human experience. Poetry touches our emotions directly, and our colleagues Howard Stein, Peter Petschauer, and other psychohistorians have pioneered connecting poetry to psychohistory. This special issue of Clio seeks to explore how poetry can illuminate the psychological undercurrents of historical moments and how psychohistorical insights can deepen our appreciation and interpretation of poetic works. Topics of interest for paper submissions include, but are not limited to:

  • Psychoanalytical Readings of Poetry:Analyzing poetry through psychoanalytic frameworks to uncover hidden psychological dimensions and collective unconscious themes.
  • Poetry as Cultural Reflection:Investigating how poetry can serve as a mirror to societal norms, values, and psychological states across different historical periods.
  • Historical Trauma and Poetic Expression:Examining how historical traumas find resonance in poetic works and how poets engage with the collective trauma of their time.
  • Psychohistorical Analysis of Poets’ Lives:Exploring the influence of personal psychological experiences on the creative output of poets and how historical contexts shape their artistic perspectives.
  • Archetypal Motifs in Poetry and History:Investigating archetypal motifs present in both poetry and historical narratives as well as how they contribute to our understanding of cultural evolution.
  • Politics, Power, and Poetic Discourse:Analyzing the role of poetry in shaping political ideologies and how political dynamics impact poetic expression.
  • Psychological Landscapes in Poetry:Examining how poets depict psychological landscapes of individuals and societies as well as how these depictions align with psychohistorical analysis.
  • Comparative Studies:Comparative analyses of poetic works and psychohistorical narratives from different cultures and time periods to uncover cross-cultural psychological trends.

We seek commentaries on Howard Stein’s symposium article (included below) of up to 1,200 words, as well as your longer articles (1,500-2,500 words) on the subject, including your title, author name(s) with affiliation, a 50-word abstract, 7-10 keywords, and your brief biography (three to four sentences), ending in your email address. Send documents in Microsoft Word (*docx or doc) format by October 1, 2023

We welcome your submissions, and we urge you to share this Call for Papers with colleagues and lists.


The Psychohistory Forum’s Work-In-Progress Virtual Conference, “Poetry and Psychohistory/ Psychoanalysis,” on November 4, 2023 (Saturday), from 10:30 am-1:00 pm (EDT), will feature papers and presentations by Judith Harris, PhD, Juhani Ihanus, PhD, and Howard Stein, PhD.

Applied Poetry and the Nature of Truth in Psychohistory
Howard F. Stein, PhD — University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Abstract: This paper explores the contribution of applied psychohistorical poetry to the question of truth in psychohistorical scholarship, data, methodology, and theory. The author suggests that applied poetry offers a different, complementary way of knowing. The truth it reveals is indirect rather than direct.

Poetry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychohistory: Toward a Renewed Understanding
Judith Harris, PhD — Poet and Scholar
Abstract: This paper strives to explore the continuous connections of psychoanalysis, psychohistory, and poetry as well as the quiet, liminal spaces that go beyond the boundaries of ego organization and account for the mysterious and transformational aspects of myth, dream, and imagination in literary expression.

Poetic Insight and Psychohistorical Understanding: On Reciprocal Imagination
Juhani Ihanus, PhD — University of Helsinki
Abstract: Poetic inquiry and psychohistorical research are not seen as opposites but as complementary approaches to personal and collective history and memory. The space of poetry enables playful associations, reflections, and transference concerning historical phenomena and cultural transitions. Through reciprocal expressive imagination, poetic insight and psychohistorical understanding can explore emotions, fantasies, reveries, motivations, and memories. Combining their creative resources, poetry and psychohistory can reach enlightening vistas into the different layers of personality, society, and culture, with transformative effects.


Applied Poetry and the Nature of Truth in Psychohistory

Howard F. Stein — University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
[A Symposium Article]

Abstract: This paper explores the contribution of applied psychohistorical poetry to the question of truth in psychohistorical scholarship, data, methodology, and theory. The author suggests that applied poetry offers a different, complementary way of knowing. The truth it reveals is indirect rather than direct.
Keywords: appliedpoetry, countertransference, immersion, intersubjectiveunderstanding, psychohistorical data, psychohistorical explanation, psychohistory, use-of-self, ways of knowing

Introduction

In my study of applied poetry — a term that I define as poetry that directly engages the world through an intersubjective use of countertransference — I have asked: What does applied poetry contribute to knowledge in the field of psychohistory? This paper questions and explores knowledge, interpretations, and explanations of historical and cultural processes and argues that applied poetry gives us access to unconscious depth while deepening psychohistorical interpretations and explanations.

Let me begin to answer these questions by identifying some of the contrasts or polarities (binaries) between ways of knowing that applied poetry offers and those that other psychohistorical approaches provide: direct (lineal) vs. indirect contact with the world; concrete language vs. allusion; description vs. evocation; part vs. whole; concrete vs. abstraction;  narrative explanation vs. brief, condensed suggestion; stay at the surface vs. provide access to the unconscious and intersubjective.

Applied and “Pure” Poetry

I have classified what I call formalism or “pure” poetry through a constellation of meanings that include clever, non-practical, language; words for their own sake, not addressed to the pain of the world but to the ever-more complex use of language. Although there are exceptions to this, such as objectivism, beat poetry, and anti-war poetry, nonetheless modernism set the tenets that were self-referential.

By contrast, applied poetry, like other “applied” disciplines, is about the writing of poetry that engages the world, the human spirit and heart, and the human condition; bears witness to suffering; offers courage and reflection; and evokes readers’ and listeners’ similar lived experiences.  Often the experience of reading pure and applied poetry is akin to the distinction between lifelessness and vital aliveness.

Applied Poetry and the Data of Psychohistory

If all observations are intersubjective, to say the data are entirely “out there,” external to the observer no longer suffices. All observations, and the data that emerge from them, are the result of a relationship, conscious and unconscious, between observer and observed. Applied psychohistorical poetry, written by a psychohistorian who is immersed in an era or culture, can be considered bona fide research data along with conventional narrative qualitative and quantitative scholarly data.  While poetry is thought to be non-factual, emotive, and imaginative, applied poetry gives us data about what and how people respond to their life experiences.

How do psychohistorians draw upon their countertransferences in composing and interpreting their own poetry, based upon immersion in a psychohistorical subject, theme, era, individual, etc.? That is, intrapsychically, how does the processing of countertransference into applied poetry become data?

Psychohistorical data provided through countertransference is indirect. Poetry contributes indirect data to psychohistorical method, research, interpretation, and explanation, by providing access to conscious and unconscious dimensions of lived historical experience that narrative forms cannot. Psychohistorians’ applied poetry is a valid way of knowing that can complement other psychohistorical methods and perspectives—much in the way that a team of surveyors who looks at the same point in space from different perspectives have different viewpoints.

For example, it is one matter for a scholar of 19th century Polish nationalism to study the poetry of Adam Mickiewicz as a window into the ideology and emotions of the movement. It is another matter for a psychohistorian who is steeped for years if not decades in the study of Polish nationalism to write a poem inspired by immersion in these topics that exist ostensibly external to the scholar. So, then, who and what is the poem about? The poem is not only about the psychohistorian but also about the largely unconscious relationship between the psychohistorian and his or her “subjects,” as well as Polish nationalism itself. The poem itself becomes “raw material” as psychohistorical data. For example, I wrote the following poem in the early 1990s, at once as an employee of an organization in which downsizings occurred, and in which I was under the constant threat of being made redundant (fired):

Downsizing 

What is happening
Has not happened,
And if it has,
We do not want to know.
People I worked with yesterday,
Today are suddenly whisked away;
No one asks where they go –
Or even really wants to know.
There is no blood to show
For all their disappearance;
They just are
Not around anymore.
The signs all
Read the same –
On the highways, in the stores,
On the elevators, in the halls:
What is happening
Has not happened,
And if it has,
We do not want to know.
(Stein, 2018, p. 111)

A word association that takes the form of a constellation of familiar words in psychohistory can serve as a starting point for situating applied poetry in relation to traditional ways of research, interpretation, and explanation. Among these are: research, data, poetry as data, interpretation, explanation, intersubjective data, and what/where to situate psychohistorical data (inside, outside, between, intersubjective, complementarity).

To take this constellation further, psychohistorical poetry constitutes the search for psychohistorical truth. Beginning with methodological and theoretical considerations, psychohistorians might write poems about contemporary apocalyptic thinking and social movements, or previous ones such as 19th and 20th century nationalism, which can be used for cross-historical and cross-cultural comparison.  For example, is the current terrifying sense of the “earth at the edge” (the end of life, the abyss of oblivion) utterly unique in human history?  In much of my own recent applied poetry, I have grappled with describing what this “edge,” or the end, might feel like, allowing for the experience, conscious and unconscious, to mark the moment as part of history itself.

The data of applied poetry (in fact, all data in every discipline) are thus not entirely external to the observer/poet that is, “out there,” but are inseparable from the relationship between the psychohistorical poet and the ostensible subject or topic of inquiry. Applied poetry is not entirely the internal property of the poet but is a result of what I view as a dance between self and other, inside, and outside. The data of psychohistorical poetry take shape as psychohistorians draw upon their countertransference in composing and interpreting the experience of immersion in a psychohistorical subject or theme.  The poem comes into being and exists between us, not altogether inside me, even though I write the poem!

How, then, would you situate in imaginary space the applied poetry written by scholars and researchers in relation to what are usually counted as legitimate research data?  For over a century and a half, anthropology has been a leading edge in the study of nativistic movements, retribalization, ethnic resurgence, revitalization movements, millenarian movements, chiliastic movements, rissorgimento (the 19th century Italian national awakening that resulted in the 1861 establishment of the Kingdom of Italy), crisis cults, cargo cults, nationalism, etc.  The rapid spread of the Ghost Dance among Great Basin Northern Paiute and related Shoshonean tribes is the locus classicus of these inquiries. Anthropologists such as James Mooney, Ralph Linton, Anthony F. C. Wallace, Weston LaBarre, George Devereux, Robert F. Hill, and I have long studied movements based on massive traumatic culture change and loss, followed by cultural death and the quest for rebirth.

My most recent contributions to the conversation take place in the form of applied poetry, as well as scholarly narrative (see my book with Seth Allcorn, The Toxic Life of Organizations: Poetry, Stories, and Analysis, 2020). In contrast to the earlier mentioned studies of cultural catastrophe, my own applied poetry is about the psychological brutality, degradation, and dehumanization of millions of employees between the early 1980s and the present, in the social revolution euphemized by such words as downsizing, reduction in force, reengineering, restructuring, outsourcing, offshoring, deskilling, and managed health care (see my book, Nothing Personal, Just Business, 2001). That is, my applied poetry is simultaneously about me, them, and our intersubjective relationship.

What Kind of New “Facts” Does Applied Poetry Offer to Historical Truth?

The question of what psychohistorians’ own applied poetry might contribute to psychohistory takes us to the heart of a theoretical and clinical conflict at the heart of psychoanalytic history.  Throughout his enormous body of scholarly publications, Vamık Volkan has explored the frequent opposition between what-events-and-processes-reallyhappened-in-history and the mythologization, amplification, distortion, and use of the past by present needs (including leader-group relationships in group identity).  His work has led to concepts such as “chosen trauma,” “chosen glory,” and the unconscious “fit” between leader and follower. The either/or side-taking and polarization of positions (ideologies) have often become rancorous. In parallel fashion, psychoanalytic anthropologist Weston LaBarre encyclopedically studied “crisis cults” that arose in the wake of social cataclysm, and the ensuing effort at restitution and reversal of the narcissistic injury in his book The Ghost Dance (1972).  The relationship between “What happened to us?” (massive psychic trauma, as enumerated above) and “What do we do with what happened to us?” (e.g., adaptation, mourning loss, leadership’s vow to avenge and reverse loss, regression, violence to undo shame and guilt) lie at the heart of much of psychohistorians’ search to make sense of “the why of history.” What really happened (the reality), remembering, revision, unconscious group selective reconstruction of the past to meet contemporary unconscious needs offer widely different accounts of group history.  They are all different kinds of data.

The unsettling question arises: Does what really happened in the past even matter since it has undergone intrapsychic and group-dynamic change? For example, the emotionally charged shadow of genocide by Whites of American Indians, the enslavement of African Blacks by Whites in the U.S., the Armenian slaughter by Turks during World War I, and the industrialized annihilation of European Jews by the Nazis in World War II, haunt all scholarly inquiry. Put conceptually, is shared participatory, phenomenological reality, authentic reality? How can applied poetry help in sorting these out? Can applied poetry somehow help bridge the chasm between imagination and reality, symbol and symbolized, story (narrative) and empirical fact, etc.? 

Applied psychohistorical poetry offers researchers a lived experience, access to depths of the mind, to a world prior to symbols (representation) together with the process of becoming real-ized into symbols. Applied poetry is the journey and path toward sense-making through metaphor, simile, condensation, imagination, deep emotion, alliteration, personification, rhythm, rhyme, and the like that condense and distill entire worlds into few words. It is a kind of metadata that attempt to make sense of and organize all the “shreds and patches” from scholarly studies. Narrative interpretation tries to spell out, make explicit, directly, sequentially, and dissect everything. By contrast, applied poetry hints at, alludes to, approximates, suggests, and intimates historical moments, events, and people. Perhaps the words “direct” and “indirect” evoke the distinction between these distinct ways of experiencing and understanding the experiential world.

How Does Psychohistorical Poetry Provide Access to Unconscious Processes in History?

Using the self as a way of knowing and making sense of the world through one’s self-experience is a shift from prior orthodoxies in which subjectivity was viewed with some skepticism if not outright contempt. By becoming aware of one’s countertransference, one can dispel sources of distortion and defense.  What does “using” one-self (countertransference) mean, and how does it “work”? One’s self can be used as a source of curiosity, wonder, subtle hints, open-endedness, and discovering unexpected answers. Such an attitude relies upon non-defensive non-lineal knowing, not-knowing, and tolerating the anxiety of ambiguity. The action of a human hand and hammer with a nail and piece of wood is not the way applied poetry works; this is not useful to psychohistorians!

Applied poetry can be an instrument of historical and cross-cultural comparative research. Much valuable psychohistory takes the form of “case studies” of specific eras, specific topics and themes, and psychobiography in the study of individual lives in their culture-historical contexts.  Individual case studies become the methodological foundation for developing theories of how and why culture and history take specific forms.

For instance, consider that a psychodynamic approach, complemented by other methods, is now being applied to the study of personal, group, inter-group, and climatological catastrophe and global catastrophism, the image and reality of the human and entire biological world on the edge of self-destruction if not extinction. The present Anthropocene era is characterized by widespread world destruction fantasies and realistic dangers, emergency individual and group adaptive and maladaptive responses to both inner and outer trauma, and the defense against overwhelming loss and mourning.

Comparative examples abound of the world and history on the edge, if not “over the edge,” for example, the World War I soldier-poet Wilfred Owen’s tragic poetry of unbearably keen observation and witness (see The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, 1965). William Butler Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” (1919) after the catastrophic World War I.  How is Yeats’ “edge” different from ours?  How is the 13th Symphony (1962) of Dmitri Shostakovich, which is based on poems of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, inspired by the systematic massacre of Jews by Nazi death squads at Babi Yar outside Kiev in September 1941, connected to us? These are poets who are making contacts with their worlds and allowing the reader to experience them. To put it in a formula, the “end of time” equals the “end of the world.” Where, spatially, does the catastrophe occur? If it is external, that world can also be suffused with massive projection to protect against, to fend off, the internal (schizophrenic?) calamity. If world destruction is a necessary prelude to cleansing, purification, and renewal, one would conjecture that it necessarily follows from total collapse. Are a “new heaven and a new earth” assured from annihilation? Does death always result in rebirth? Wartime deaths inevitably occur even in victory. The ancient and universal ouroboros myth ever culminates in the snake consuming itself once and for all.

Who, better than psychohistorians and other scholars, steeped in the unconscious dimension of cross-cultural and pan-historic ideologies and social movements of world destruction, are positioned to write applied poetry rooted in aspects of events that seem too terrible and too familiar? Applied poetry is at once a research method, data, and interpretation for a psychohistorian. The poetry is written by the psychohistorian, not the people they study. But even that is too much of a dichotomy because the psychohistorian is always receiving, via countertransference and identification, data both from the other person or group and the psychohistorian’s resonance with these.

I offer the following “short list” of contributions to applied psychohistorical poetry: Wounded Centuries (David Beisel, Ed., 2015), Listen to Rarely Heard Voices (Peter W. Petschauer, 2022), Centre and Circumference (Howard F. Stein, 2018), and Whiteboardings: Creating Collaborative Poetry in a Third Space (Howard F. Stein & Seth Allcorn, 2023).

Conclusions: Where to From Here?

In this paper, I have approached the dovetailing of applied poetry and psychohistory from multiple descriptive, research, lived experience, phenomenological, methodological, experiential, unconscious, intersubjective, and group dynamics perspectives. This overlap, resonance, and amplification take place in the ordinary Real World of doing and practicing psychohistory. Clearly, there can be no mechanistic, prescriptive protocol of “how to.”  Instead, these surrender to open-ended, always surprising ways that ideas, fantasies, and emotions surface and eventually cohere. Tolerance for uncertainty and anxiety must be higher than is normal for the practitioner. I hope that you have accompanied me not only by “looking over my shoulder” and watching me but by immersing yourself in my inner world of lived experience (phenomenology) and psychodynamic imagination.

I conclude by inviting you, the reader, to perform an experiment, or several, to play with and test the ideas proposed here.  If even only a part of what I have written here rings true to your own experience as a psychohistorian and human being, “try on” this approach to your own work, past or current. I do not promise this experiment will directly prove the link I have suggested between a psychohistorian’s applied poetry and new truth or the validation of some psychohistorical theory. Instead, it might offer a whole new universe of understanding and experiencing the process of history as if from within. The usefulness of applied poetry as data and as an interpretive “tool” will take place in the form of inner resonance (as in tuning forks at the same pitch) between your inner experiences, made manifest through your poetry, and other modes of psychohistorical knowing.

Here is my proposed experiment: Begin a poem with a few lines that emerge from and evoke a psychohistorical project or theme in which you are deeply engaged. As you write, follow the leads (associations) of your mind, memory, and feelings; see where they take you. Do not trouble yourself with trying to shape it, but instead, let it flow into and from you. Let the emerging “it” shape you and take you where it leads. Do not try consciously to take it somewhere you plan or think it “should” go. Discover your path as you journey. Perhaps take as the point of departure some facet of the project that arouses your emotions, that confuses you, even somewhere where you would rather not go. The point is to start—anywhere.

As you “listen” to historical events, people, and processes through your countertransference in the process of writing the poem, ask yourself whether your poem(s) adds another dimension and additional data to what you already have learned through your own and others’ scholarly research and writing. Do you understand anything more or better or more deeply about the historical project in which you are engaged than before you began writing the poem(s)? To return to the title of this paper: Has your own applied psychohistorical poetry offered you further, broader, deeper truth about what history is, and why it takes place in its specific form?

Howard F. Stein, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He is author, co-author, and editor of 35 books, several hundred published papers and chapters, and over 300 poems.  He is Poet Laureate of The Psychohistory Forum and the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Psychohistory from The Psychohistory Forum in March 2023.  His most recent poetry books are Whiteboardings: Creating Collaborative Poetry in a Third Space (2023), co-authored with Seth Allcorn; Presence – Poems from Ghost Ranch (2020); Centre and Circumference (2028); and Light and Shadow (2018). He collaborated with Seth Allcorn on The Psychodynamics of Toxic Organizations: Poetry, Stories, and Analysis (2020).  Stein can be reached at hfs.dad@gmail.com.

References

Stein, Howard F. (2018). Centre and circumference. MindMend Publishing.


A Few Words about Clio’s Psyche and the Psychohistory Forum:

It is the style of our scholarly quarterly to publish thought-provoking, clearly written articles usually based upon psychoanalytic/psychological insight and developed with examples from history, current events, and the human experience.  We are open to all psychological and psychohistorical approaches and prefer to publish personalized articles, without psychoanalytic/ psychological terminology or jargon.

We have converted to a modified version of the latest APA citation system, which will have very few references, and those are overwhelmingly for direct quotes.  We emphasize good literary style without referring to authorities except when essential.  Indeed, we discourage citations except where there are quotations or where they are otherwise essential.

Submissions the editors deem suitable are anonymously refereed in our double-blind system.  Once you have submitted your article, please do not make any further edits to the piece until we return it to you (if necessary).

Clio’s Psyche is about to enter its 30th year of publication by the Psychohistory Forum, a 43-year-old organization of academics, therapists, and laypeople holding scholarly meetings in person (at the Lincoln Center of Fordham University, NYC) and virtually.  For information on our publication and back issues over a year old, go to our website at www.cliospsyche.org/archives.

Get the writing guidelines for Clio’s Psyche at https://cliospsyche.org/guidelines. Also visit www.PsychohistoryForum.com and www.PsychobiographyForum.com.

Write to us for information on how to join our group and read our print journal.

Sincerely yours,

Paul,
Paul H. Elovitz, PhD, Historian, Research Psychoanalyst, Online Professor, Editor, Clio’s Psyche, and author The Making of Psychohistory: Origins, Controversies, and Pioneering Contributors (Routledge, 2018), editor of The Many Roads of the Builders of Psychohistory (2021) and author of over 400 publications. E-mail: cliospsycheeditor@gmail.com.

Inna,
Inna Rozentsvit, M.D., PhD, MBA, MSciEd, Physician, Neuropsychoanalyst, Neuropsychoeducator, Associate Editor of Clio’s Psyche and Associate Director of the Psychohistory Forum. E-mail: inna.rozentsvit@gmail.com. Web: www.innarozentsvit.com.