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The Sessions
by Jonathan Totman
£10 (pub. 2023)

The Sessions is a sequence of fifty sonnets – representing the ‘50-minute hour’ of a traditional psychotherapy session – which explore talking therapy from the perspective of client and therapist. Drawing on the author’s work as a clinical psychologist, as well as his own experiences of being in therapy, the collection pays tribute to the healing power of conversation, whilst also interrogating the complications and contradictions of the process: what does it mean when compassion and care are boxed into a strictly time-limited consultation? What happens within and between us when the personal, professional and political collide? The Sessions is a compassionate, humane look at how we make our ways in the world. It is a book ultimately about connection.

Praise for The Sessions:

“'And I remember
what this hard work of happiness can be;
that there beyond the ring-road
of model and checklist, are tall wild blooms.

I so loved this collection: the skills of a clinical psychologist - of intelligent empathy, compassion and of close attention- are qualities that well serve this poet. It is a beautifully written work, but also fascinating in the way that gets behind the mask and finds there uncertainties and frailties but also always kindness, gentleness and warmth. A collection that casts light on the intricate workings of the human psyche and the art of healing in stunning lines of poetry.

'If nature is therapy, let this hour be the shoreline.'”

Deb Alma

"I absolutely loved this collection. The Sessions is a well-written, acutely observed collection of sonnets exploring the role of the psychologist. What does it mean 'to hear a thousand traumas humming in the bodies of passers-by'? These poems capture those 'uncleaned corners' of life, then send you out 'past the buses and the wheelie bins, your mind decorated with the deep-down knowledge of your goodness.' Immensely enjoyable."

Elisabeth Sennitt Clough


“A fascinating and formally coherent collection that draws on the poet's first-hand experience of psychotherapy, offering us a privileged insight into his world. Exploring the day to day of professional practice, Totman takes a compelling and highly original perspective on work and human relations, love and relationships, childhood, parenthood and play. Each sonnet is a room, a session, a question, an interrogation, a reflection, a realisation, each poem a vignette informed by life and observation, concerned with knowing others and in turn the self. A journey of beautifully crafted poems that celebrate the business and rituals of witness behind closed doors, the passing of minutes in words and silence, the things hard to say, the holding back and letting go, the rehearsals of loss, the quiet catastrophes.”

Paul Stephenson


“With a frankness so thorough it's almost disconcerting, Totman draws back the veil on the therapist/patient dynamic. His nuanced reading of the atmospheric pressure in the therapy consultation-room produces lines that shock, jolt, soothe and ultimately bring us back to ourselves. These are restless, humane, questing poems where linguistic deftness is matched by a forensic compassion.”

Claudine Toutoungi


Unforeseen Circumstances

Once in a while, I’ll be sat there nodding
and mming and silently saying – and me.
I recognise that place; I’ve walked that twisting
track. What little of my life I let you see
could be anyone’s, really: that I’m terrible
at parallel parking. That I have a cat.
That I, too, am living through unbelievable
times. And then some things barge past
discreteness; unforeseen circumstances
running roughshod over the day:
traffic jams, train cancellations,
illness, in all its vague and curtained shades,
computer glitches, boiler breakdowns,
floods, deaths, errors, strikes, poems.



(from The Sessions)

The Sessions

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