Do Poets Dream of Lineated Sheep?
Quick survey. Do you think the way you dream relates to the way you write?
Once I took a nap at the tremendous Casa Libre de la Solana in Tuscon, AZ. I was there with Heriberto Yépez and Richard Siken to read at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. It was hot in Tuscon, and the day had been busy, thus the nap.
I like to nap when I am able. I find it refreshes my brain and, afterward, I write very well.
A midday walk has much the same effect. But for best results I do what I did in Tuscon that day: a midday walk, then a nap. When I woke, I wrote fiercely until we were called to dinner.
At dinner I told the group about my dream. It was a long, windy, story dream. One person said something to another, got into a car which had a correlative (albeit in a less interesting color palette) in the real world, drove somewhere, said something else... One thing led to another, fade out, fade in, another thing led to another thing...
Richard Siken listened, incredulous. He said if he dreamed at all it would be in, say, a color. The idea that I dreamed in stories was shocking to him.
Heriberto Yépez said his dreams were all over the map. Sometimes maybe they'd come as a story, then maybe as an image, then maybe a song, an impression of touch.
We got to thinking about this. Did our dreams say anything about who were were as writers?
Of the three of us, Heriberto wrote most consistently in a variety of genres. In any one day he might write in any number of genres.
I was in the midst of writing my forthcoming collection, Suck on the Marrow, a series of historically-influenced narratives. The poems I worked on after my nap were linked narratives, wherein one story led into the next and the next. Things were life-like and also a bit more colorful than we might notice them to be in real life. The poems I was writing were not unlike the mode of the dream I'd described.
And Siken, who said if he could describe his dreams at all he could only describe them in terms of a mood, or a color, "It was a blue dream," for instance, "That dream was red," Siken was busy touring with his moody, tone-rich book, Crush.
I don't know. It's been a long time since that conversation. My dreams have changed. So have my poems. I'm still wondering if and how the two are related.
I know plenty of poets turn their dreams into poems, all three of us in the conversation had done that, but that's not really what were were trying to define. We were interested in something a little different. How did the manner of dreaming influence our approaches to writing?
I'm interested in hearing what the Harriet community has to say about how a dreamer's mode of dreaming might influence the dreamer's writing style.
Poet and editor Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver but moved often as her father, an academic physician, taught at many different medical schools across the country. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Dungy’s full-length poetry publications include Trophic...