Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prompt #92 – Dreams

Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?

– Joan Didion

What’s the dream experience like for you? Have you ever had a particularly vivid dream that you haven’t forgotten? A recurring dream? A precognitive dream (a dream that comes true as a future event)? A dream that defies understanding?

While dreams are typically defined as thoughts, images, or emotions that occur during sleep, Thoreau called dreams the “touchstones of our characters.” William Butler Yeats said, “In dreams begins responsibility.” And according to Shakespeare, “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on.” C. K. Chesterton wrote, “The center of every man's existence is a dream.” When I read these comments, I made an immediate connection to poetry: touchstones of our character, the stuff of dreams, responsibility, the center of our existence, thought, image, and emotion; and I began to think about the ways in which dreams intersect with waking life, what dreams mean, and why some dreams are so compelling (and sometimes convincingly real).

I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that poetry is the language of dreams or vice versa, but a shared “lexicon” of image and emotion is definitely possible. Without getting into the psychology of dreams or dream interpretation (fascinating areas of study), let’s write poems about dreams this week.

Try writing a poem about a specific dream. You might “tell” about a dream, re-create a dream, write about a dream’s impact, or you might write your poem in the prose poem format of a dream journal or diary. If you honestly can’t remember a dream, make one up or write a poem about dreams in general. You might write about an animal’s dream, an inanimate object’s dream, or you might take on the persona of a dream and write as if you are a dream speaking. Another possibility is to write about a nightmare you’ve had, to create a nightmare poem, or to write about a favorite daydream. Still another possibility is to write a poem based on this quotation: "If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy?" (Thomas Lovell Beddoes)

Example Dream Poems:

And ... from my newest collection of poems, the dream I had while I was on chemo:


It’s the same damned dream – a hole and she
knows she’s in it. She feels herself flail, small

(like shiver, the bed sprung with the weight of
her life.) She can’t lift off. She flaps, arms

pitched like wings (that would be bird – wren,
sparrow – but she isn’t). She races and revs, gains

a fraction, then bumps down (the way one fall
bumps into another). She thinks: a spade for the

feathers, a bucket for the blood (whatever is left –
her own slow ghost). But stop! The fortuneteller

trips – illusion, trick – there’s one bird left on
the water, one wing through, and it’s rising.

                        (From What Matters, Welcome Rain Publishers, New York, NY, 2011)

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  1. I LOVE this one, Adele! SO much room for experiment.

    The example poems are, as always, wonderful, and you've given us a comprehensive sampling. Your own poem is brilliant.

    Thank, you, thank you, thank you!


    1. Thanks so much, Jamie! Your comments are always a joy and an inspiration!

  2. Great selection of sample poems and yours is superb.

    1. Thanks, Bob! So glad you're enjoying the example poems!

  3. As always, much food for thought. "Another Night" is a terrific poem. And I love the last word, "rising," which lifts me. Here's a poem about a dream experience, a dream place . . .

    There Is Wildness Here

    There is wildness here,
    Raw and raging
    Beneath this exterior,

    There are visions here
    Of soaring over lifetimes of leaf-filled trees
    And rust-colored hills,
    Over yellow fields,
    Over oceans.

    There is forgetting here
    Of the small things people say,
    The small things people do.

    There is a last angry echo
    Of the unheard voice,
    The deeper self,
    The truer self,
    The wilder self
    That wearies of all man-made things.

    There is a silence here
    That grows and infuses,
    Like the melancholy tint
    Of an old photograph,
    An old photograph you walk around in,
    Examining with wonder the frozen, yet flowing
    Moments of a life.

    There is a wildness here
    That rises like an immense stone,
    Floating impossibly
    In the pure blue sky
    Of a secret spring.

  4. Thanks, Russ, for your kind words and for posting your poem "There Is Wilderness Here." Quite an interesting dreamscape that reminds me a bit of the R. G. Rader poem in prompt #77 (October 29, 2011 -

    It's always nice to hear from you, and I think many readers will relate to your dream poem.

    1. Nice poem, Russ! Good of you to post for each prompt and to give us an opportunity to enjoy your work.

  5. Thanks for the prompt, Adele. It took me straight to a memory that quickly became a poem. Much appreciated.

    1. So glad, Danny, and thanks so much for your comment!

  6. There's always so much richness in your prompts! I use them often in my schools and workshops. Thank you Adele!

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

    1. Thanks, Maire! It's great to know that you're using the prompts. It's really wonderful that they cross the Atlantic!

  7. Thank you, Adele, dreams are really poetry in our sleeps.

    “In dreams begins responsibility " could be a wonderful title for a poem!

    1. You're right, Jago - dreams are a kind of poetry in our sleep and, yes, that would be a great title! Thanks so much for your comments!

  8. Wonderful prompt, Adele (and a very dramatic photo)!

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)