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Segue 10: Fall 2011  ||  Charles Coté


about the author


Charles Coté is the author of a chapbook (Flying for the Window, Finishing Line Press, 2008) and is working on a full-length book of persona poems called Shrink, some of which appear in this issue of Segue. His poems have also appeared in: Upstreet, Salamander, The Cortland Review, Free Lunch, Identity Theory, Blueline, Modern Haiku, Connecticut River Review and HazMat Review. He studied social work at Syracuse University and is a psychotherapist in private practice, teaching poetry in his free time at Writers & Books in Rochester, NY.


about the work


The Shrink persona evolved out of my struggle to write about my profession without divulging confidential information, to find a way to fashion a container for the suffering of others, which in reality turns out to be a way to contain my own anxiety. Physician, heal thyself! The first Shrink poem I wrote, simply titled “Shrink,” linked the subject of my chapbook, the death of my eighteen-year-old son from cancer, with my work as a psychotherapist, imagining Shrink in his office on the anniversary of his son’s death. When I shared that poem at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival with my workshop leader, Gregory Orr, he encouraged me to develop Shrink’s character and let the poems go wherever they would take me, to not censor the work in any way. “Shrink’s Winter” pays homage to Fernando Pessoa’s persona, Ricardo Reis, one of four distinct voices he employed when writing. As a therapist, the gap between one’s professional and personal life can be quite wide as the HBO series In Treatment so accurately portrays. I could say things behind a mask, a persona, that I’d be hesitant to say directly. In this case, we see a melancholic Shrink trying to connect with his wife, and yet falling short, a stark contrast to the help he offers his married clients by day. “Shrink’s Math” heightens this dramatic tension by exploring the implications of intimacy, how two halves rarely make a whole, an idea that fascinates me both as a therapist and bewildered spouse. This poem started as an exercise with homonyms. In “Shrink’s Elusive Moon,” we get an existential perspective: No relationship can fill that void, no matter how ideal. Shrink is moony, or in Jungian psychology, a puer, an adult child dealing with his mother complex, or at least that’s what Shrink’s own shrink might say. I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide whether that assessment is correct.


Charles CotÉ on the Web









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