Poetry News

Mathias Svalina's Dream Delivery Service

By Harriet Staff


Emily Litvak writes about "the guy with the dreams," also known as Mathias Svalina, for U. of Arizona's Poetry Center blog. Svalina was in Tucson on a leg of his Dream Delivery Service, and met with Litvak in the early hours of a Wednesday. Litvak explains his presence, and his project:

From November 1 until today, Svalina has been delivering original dreams to 51 subscribers, including his old student, and me. Each dream he writes is between 100 and 300 words, sometimes tedious, sometimes laced with absurdist humor, sometimes with a typo or two, and always defined by surrealist logic. He delivers each of them in pink envelopes.

Svalina has been doing this for a month at a time in cities across the country for two years, starting in Denver, Colorado. With support from the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson and the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, Svalina and his dreams came to Tucson. Before Tucson, it was Richmond, Virginia. Next, it’ll be Marfa, Texas. Then New Orleans. Then Chicago.

This morning he’s allowed me to join him for part of his route through Tucson, a daily 40-mile bike ride. Even in the dark, you can’t miss Svalina’s mustard yellow pants with the bottoms rolled up and his zip-up with neon green sleeves as he weaves through the grid of Tucson’s streets. He pedals up Columbus, down Campbell, across Fort Lowell and Grant, leaving behind pink envelopes in every direction.

As he quietly ducks in and out of the desert suburbs, I recall something Svalina said in an earlier conversation we had at the Poetry Center, sitting next to a shelf stacked with four of his poetry books: “Mine is a service that nobody needs.” Svalina was self-deprecating, but not wrong. Indeed, nobody needs dreams delivered to their door every morning. Yet 51 people paid for just that. I start to wonder who lives in each house we stop at, and why they wanted the dreams, and what our community gains from this kind of visitor.

She goes on to talk with some subscribers to the dream! We love this one:

Kim Stoll, a development specialist at the Pima Animal Care Center, subscribed to Svalina’s dream delivery service, too. She hadn’t heard of Svalina before, but had seen the service advertised by the Poetry Center.

For Stoll, the dreams were a way to connect to Svalina, herself, her friends, and the community. The only contact she ever had with Svalina, she says, was when he emailed her asking if he should start leaving the dreams in her mailbox instead of at her door, because he was waking up her dogs by coming to the door. “That became my image of him: A guy tiptoeing up to my door every morning, trying to be as quiet as possible,” she says. “I just thought that was nice.”

She felt connected to the blocks of prose left at her door every morning, reading them like horoscopes, searching for their meaning in her own life. “It was like someone else writing my subconscious, which is weird, but cool.”

After reading her own each morning, she would discuss the dreams with friends who also subscribed. “We’d start the day talking about our poems,” she says. “It also made me think about other people going out to their porches, all of the doorsteps in Tucson, what they look like, what the people look like. A single person delivering something to many different people can connect them in that way.”

In November, Svalina was interviewed for the Poetry Center.

If you're in Marfa, Texas, we hear Svalina's there now. See him in action below.

Dream Delivery Service from Mari Cleven on Vimeo.