top of page

Ametric Elegy for R. D. Laing

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

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




scapegoated souls.

Unmasking psychopathology of the norm,

Hours of disjunctive babble,

huddled communion

while disguised as another patient.

Debunking “normalcy's” shell game as






and the ever-popular:

heard instinct.

Proclaiming “abnormality”

as incongruence with

prevailing states of alienation!

Exposing the humbug wizard

hiding behind a curtain of

transpersonal invalidation.

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.


bottom of page