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An Interview with Dr. Robert H. Deluty
|by Prof. Jaydeep Sarangi|
Dr. Robert H. Deluty is the Associate Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He has been a psychology professor at UMBC since 1980, and was named Presidential Teaching Professor in 2002. He and his wife, Barbara (a clinical psychologist), live in Ellicott City, Maryland and have two children, Laura and David, and a granddaughter, Ava. Dr. Deluty’s poems and essays have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Pegasus Review, Modern Haiku, Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy, Psychiatric Times, the Journal of Poetry Therapy, Welcome Home, Muse of Fire, The Faculty Voice, Maryland Family Magazine, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, and many other newspapers, journals, and anthologies. His 42nd book, Saluting from the Shore, is scheduled to be published in August 2013.
J.S.: When did you start writing poems?
With the exception of poems that I was required to write for school assignments, I did not write ANY poetry until I was 38 years-old (21 years ago). I am a psychology professor and a practicing clinical psychologist; I had published many professional journal articles and chapters in my 20's and 30's. Twenty-one years ago, I published an essay about my father in The Baltimore Evening Sun newspaper (my first non-scholarly publication). The essay was well-received, so I tried to write another -- the second one on the topic of entitlement. The essay was terrible -- long-winded, self-righteous, and boring. It occurred to me, however, that I could say everything I wanted to say in about 50 words if I structured it properly. So, I rewrote the essay as a poem:
To rage because of insult
To hate because of mistreatment
To steal because of deprivation
To destroy and be destroyed.
With a single, precious entitlement,
One's birthright as a human being:
To be respected.
It was published in the same Baltimore newspaper that accepted my first essay, and I've been writing poetry ever since.
J.S.: Why do you write poems?
When I provide therapy as a psychologist and when I write poetry, my goals are typically the same: to connect with my audience, to relieve burdens, and to promote greater awareness and insight (i.e., to enlighten). The gifts of psychotherapy and poetry are visited not only upon the recipient but also upon the giver. I feel great pleasure when one of my patients evinces relief, mastery, or joy; likewise, it is deeply satisfying when one of my readers is genuinely moved or challenged by something that I have written. In addition, poems give me the opportunity to share my feelings, thoughts, and memories; and to experience an "unburdening" when particular painful cognitions, emotions, images, or recollections are conveyed to empathic others. When my poems touch or inspire my readers or listeners to examine and share their own thoughts, feelings, or stories, then they, too, may feel unburdened and connected. Having my therapy patients read and then reflect upon particular poems has resulted in shared smiles, tears, remembrances, understanding, and healing.
J.S.: Would you share with us one of your recent poems?
To be content, I must create
A work of art, of literature, of science;
Something unique, something my own.
And to be happy, truly happy,
My creation must be recognized,
Acclaimed and enduring.
How sad, his wife replied,
That evoking a smile, teaching a lesson,
Watching a sunset, relieving a burden
Provide you with neither contentment
You don't get it, he shouted.
Thank goodness, she sighed.
J.S.: Who are important contemporary poets of your region?
Clarinda Harriss, Michael Fallon, and Piotr Gwiazda (all are in the Baltimore / Washington DC area)
J.S.: What are seminal themes of your poems?You have a brilliant cadence and choice of words. How did you develop these two primary constructs of a good poem?
I am certain that practicing psychotherapy has made me a better poet, and that creating poetry has made me a better therapist. The processes of writing poems and conducting therapy both require that I become more aware of the nature of my past and present experience; that I be more genuine with myself and with others; that I experience life more deeply and completely in the "here-and-now;" and that I appreciate the complex interrelatedness of events, the great value of humor and non-expression, and the beauty and importance of parsimony.
I am particularly fond of writing senryu, 3-lined poems that attempt to capture and record the essence of a keenly observed, imagined, or remembered moment. When written in English, senryu (like haiku) are typically presented in three lines totaling seventeen or fewer syllables, with the second line longer than the first and third. Whereas haiku are objective and address natural/seasonal events, senryu deal with with human subjective situations and are often satiric, pathetic, comic, or ironic. Effective senryu writers, like effective psychotherapists, rely on observation, insight, sensitivity, imagination, remembrance, and living in "the moment." Thus, every time I conduct therapy, I have the opportunity to hone the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that are required of a good senryu poet.
I find the parsimony of senryu very appealing. Just as I strive to create brief therapeutic interventions that will foster positive change in a highly cost-effective way, I am drawn to writing very brief poems that will move, touch, amuse, or stimulate my readers.
wallet-sized photo . . .
his depressed adult daughter
as a smiling child
obese math prof
daydreaming of pi
enraged student . . .
the teacher's squeaky chalk
twenty years estranged --
two brothers, one with cancer,
discuss bone marrow
forgetful scholar . . .
a pair of reading glasses
in every room
young art student
struggling to control the strokes
painting his first nude
with hyperactive children
dreams of reading to his son
a bedtime story
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