Brinkmann has chosen a rather unconventional way of presenting his points. He has written a book that resembles the self-help books he is criticising.
“It’s a self-help book with a humorous twist — you might call it a self-help book against self-help books. I wrote it like that to generate debate.”
In the best self-help book writing style Brinkmanns book has a seven step structure:
1. Stop soul-searching: From medical science we know that the more we try to feel, the worse we feel. The more we focus on our own health, the less well we feel. This is known as the ‘paradox of health’.
2. Focus on the negative aspects of your life: You have to acknowledge that you will gradually feel worse and worse and finally one day die. If you bear that in mind every day you will value life more highly than if you spend your time constantly searching for something positive to focus on.
3. Say no: As an adult you have to be able to say no in order to maintain personal integrity.
4. Repress your emotions: It is a common psychological assumption that you become neurotic if you do not express your emotions. However, research is unable to confirm this. Physical illness cannot generally be provoked by repressing one’s emotions. There is, however, evidence that men face a slightly smaller risk of getting cancer if they do express their emotions. The reverse is true for women, but this is trifle
Oh tin bath dear I hold you very dear
As by a hot coal fire, I wash my ear
Where Mum has got the water, I don’t know
As in the suds I sing , I love you so.
For in the bath, our forebears also sang
As in the woods they lived with no broadband.
And after many years they understood
They could talk outside the bath of dirty mud.
It did not seem like dirt to people then
As they were often travellers with the pen
Cleanliness it relative, you see.
Some of us were brought up with grey knees.
But relaxation opens up our chords
And in the woods they bathed and sang like birds
Is it better shopping the King’s Road
Or daubing all your family in blue woad?
As singing spreads the words each separate.
So every whispering can circulate.
After that,it’s voices in the head
And to asylums, we are swiftly led
So if we had stayed uncivilised ,unclean
Would our mental health have better been?
For if we do not speak in words and songs
The hidden voices would not make us wrong.
After all, who ever did decide
We are not allowed to hear from our inside?
Only words from other folk are sound
While voices in the head are cruelly blamed.
Far better to make friends with voices all,
Than struggle through that boring shopping mall.
And don’t use power to label me as mad,
If looking at our world makes me feel sad.
They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …
But there is no road through the woo
Is a formal poem akin to art
Or does it take the virtue from my words,
And kill the natural feelings of the heart?
Music has its forms and so is heard
A frame around a painting gives it strength
Yet modern art defies the forms and blurs.
A book is not judged merely by its length
Although it needs a cover and a shape
We don’t have lucky dips into words blenched!
Free verse can be melodious in its sounds
Despite the lack of rhymes at its verse ends
Expressive and harmonious are its bounds.
In marriage once we had defined rules
The man at work to bring a living home
The woman in the kitchen cooking fools.
Each found identity is patterned form
Yet rigid were the choices now thrown out
And men had too much power which often harmed
Every trade has structures which we flout
We need to learn the ancient ways we walk
Too much certainty can lead to doubt
Is a formal poem expressive like an art
Or does it kill the feelings of the heart?
Does the tree of life grow through my words?
Emptiness embraces what is stirred
Oh,sweet my heart,let nature dissolve me.
In her deep greens I am allowed to be.
While in the city politicians cry
And from my lips I hear a solemn sigh.
Oh,foolish world that foolish men are free.
What torment that we need society
And cannot dwell like birds in winter trees.
Or like the spider weaving webs defy.
Release my heart,let nature dissolve me.
The rich are common in momentous fee.
Unlike the insects and the fuzzy bee.
For all of us, our end is ever nigh
Enchanted as the dove that homewards flies.
Be comfortless in notoriety
Oh,cease my heart,let deep green swallow me.
“An example of a solemn rondeau is the Canadian army physician John McCrae’s 1915 wartime poem, “In Flanders Fields“:
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The challenge of writing a rondeau is finding an opening line worth repeating and choosing two rhyme sounds that offer enough word choices. Modern rondeaus are often playful; for example, “Rondel” by Frank O’Hara begins with this mysterious directive: “Door of America, mention my fear to the cigars,” which becomes the poem’s refrain.”