The only way to think about dreaming is be asleep. This is what I decided this evening.
I know, I know. It didn’t work the night before, when I lay awake much of the night, stranded between streams of thought and no actual dreams, that I can recall.
But this may be the only clear thought I’ve had all day today, and I’m going with it. I could do it right here from on my squeaky orange desk chair, shoulder propped against the wall. If I leave my hands resting on the keyboard, perhaps I’ll be poised to capture the flow of unconscious thought when my head bobs to my chest and startles me awake.
I was the child who slept anywhere, everywhere, without a moment’s thought. In the back seat, as soon as the ignition turned over. In the closets of my childhood home. Sprawled across a piano bench in the basement, a three-year-old exposing white underthings from under a too-short dress not intended for impromptu naps in compromising positions.
Perhaps it’s the one-eye-open pattern of parenthood. Or perhaps it’s mere cumulative effects over decades of not wanting to be caught with my underwear showing on the piano bench. Whatever the reason, these days, sleep often eludes me.
So do my dreams. I rarely recall them when I wake.
In poemcrazy, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge writes of the power of dreams in making poems, using a series of questions.
We’d begun intermingling our dream world with what was around us. Asking someone, “Who were you in my dream?” invites that person into contact with our inner world. We begin to see that happenings or people in our dreams may have a correspondence in the outside, or “real” world. This helps the conscious and unconscious meet. Poems naturally emerge from this meeting.
She suggests the following questions to start, inventing others as one goes along:
Who were you in my dream?
What did you hear?
What were you wearing?
What were you eating?
What did you want?
Why were you hiding?
Who was with you?
Where were you going?
Wooldridge explains that “the word poem comes from the Greek word poein, to make. In a collage, as in many poems, you reassemble fragments of found or collected images of your own.” It seems to me that dreams function in much the same way, as our subconscious gathers fragments of a day here, a moment there and pieces them back together in sometimes strange, whimsical, even frightening ways. The result, for me, is the tension between wishing I could remember and hoping I never do.
I asked myself the questions, and found that despite my ordinary lack of dream recall, I knew the answers. This exercise seemed to fit well with Joseph Cornell’s belief that “you don’t make art, you find it, accepting everything around you as material.”
In my dream
you were someone I loved
but I forgot your name.
I heard my own name,
spoken through a cloud
as though with a will
of its own.
You ate mango
which may taste
than it sounds.
Why do you ask
why was I hiding?
Don’t we all? Don’t you?
In my dream I wore cotton.
Flannel, plaid. Like always.
I was alone. Or maybe
you were with me.
I was on a street
that wasn’t visible.
I told you I only wanted
to see the road.
So maybe I was right, in a way. The only way to think about dreams is to be asleep — away from my natural tendencies that try to govern them.
Poetry takes us to a realm where it’s possible to both discover what we deeply wish for and begin to imagine it, the first step in making it happen.
We’re reading poemcrazy: freeing your life with words together this month at Tweetspeak. Are you reading along? Perhaps you’d tell us in the comments your thoughts about Part 4: Open the Window or any practice exercises you did. Maybe you would even share a poem that came out of this week’s reading. If you post about the book on your blog, feel free to drop a link to your post in the comments.
And don’t forget to check out other fun and interesting National Poetry Month events at our Ticket Counter. Are you playing along with the Phone Poets Project with Diode’s Patty Paine? Starting this week, you can get yourself on the Phone Poets Map.
Buy poemcrazy and join in the fun. For next Wednesday, we’ll wrap up our discussion with Part 5: Lights and Mysteries. Or follow this link to read the previous posts in this poemcrazy book club series.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In April we’re exploring the theme Dragons and Creatures.