R.D. Laing (1927–1989) was a British psychiatrist who polarized the mental health community with his first book, The Divided Self (1960). Dr. Laing wrote 15 books, all of which are still in print, and numerous articles and poems. This poem is also published on the website of the British Journal Psychiatry On-Line, at http://www.priory.com/poems.htm.
Laing's work has shaken just about everyone and every- thing it has touched. It has forced people to decide where they stand — and, implicitly, who they want to be.
Marshall Berman, NY Times
Ametric Elegy for R. D. Laing
Psychiatrists called you poet; Poets called you shrink. If you had presented a priest, Clergy might rush to call you shaman. Though shaman wisdom would soon recognize you in jazz standards and a cocktail piano.
Healer in a world gone mad, branding you insane; insistent old bottles fighting over a label for new wine.
For us, your name
rolls off the tongue:
Socratic muse to
Unmasking psychopathology of the norm,
Hours of disjunctive babble,
while disguised as another patient.
Debunking “normalcy's” shell game as
and the ever-popular:
as incongruence with
prevailing states of alienation!
Exposing the humbug wizard
hiding behind a curtain of
Con-game shifts of
none able to distract you from
watching the other hand.
Even the flimsy shams we masquerade as love
no match for the Great Houdini of the soul.
“A word more powerful members of a family use
to control less powerful members” indeed.
Planting truth mines in the road to denial.
The family as “protection racket.”
Adaptation to what?
To a world gone crazy?
Sanity: our collusive madness.
Who presumes to trivialize
your healing legacy?
Shall we send Salieri
to tutor Mozart?
Let them call you Beelzebul
if it helps them feel safer from the truth;
I feel our kinship in the workings
of an understanding heart.
Thanks for the light, Dr. Laing.