ON FIRST meeting Adam Phillips, you might not think that he was a psychoanalyst. His office in Notting Hill is filled with books on every wall and in stacks on the floor. But instead of therapeutic manuals, you will find volumes of poetry by J.H. Prynne, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Geoffrey Hill. The complete “À la recherche du temps perdu” nestles into the wall. He would not be out of place as a tutor in an Oxford quad—where he studied English before training as a child psychotherapist in London.
This eclectic mix of influences is evident in his psychoanalytical work. His books include “On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored” (1993), “On Flirtation” (1995) and “On Balance” (2010). Approaching psychoanalytical ideas through the more oblique lens of literature, they may not cure your neuroses, but they make for an interesting read. He has been running a series at the Lutyens & Rubinstein bookshop, where he speaks with poets about their lives before they read aloud their work. Philip Gross, John Fuller, Adam O’Riordan, Bernard O’Donoghue, John Burnside, Christopher Reid and Jo Shapcott have all taken part.
We spoke to Mr Phillips about poetry as a form of therapy and the perils of reading psychoanalytical criticism.