“If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” William Faulkner
I came to writing and writing poetry the same way I came to exploring dreams – through image and being in the experience. Poetry has the same effect on me that dreams have – they slay me, thrill me, scare me, gasp me and take off the top of my head. They both also utterly change me.
When I set out to wrestle a poem that is battering the cage of my body to escape, and to escape through my breath, I know that the poem is setting out to wrestle with me. The image or the impulse or the need to speak the heart/story of the poem, for me, is the door, but is only a door. The initial impulse is invitation.
Well, that’s a nice way to say it. Really, the initial impulse is a dare.
It says to me – so, are you coming? Are you willing to do more than just notice the thing that just rose up in you, that you just witnessed and felt something about? Are you willing to enter in? Let it be a rabbit hole to fall into so that you come out changed? To feel and become the fire that burns just on the other side?
It is the same with dreams. Every dream I have, and I believe that every dream you have, is that same kind of dare.
Dares come in many forms. As with literature, there are endless genres of dreams that are endlessly morphing. Some dreams are like lyric poems, some like “language” poetry, some like formal form poems. Some are nonsensical but full of strange wisdom. Some are short stories, some like flash fiction, some storied like novels and movies. Fiction and non-fiction. Some are epics to rival even Dante.
And as with literature and the act of creating through language, the intention of dreams, for me, is to step into an experience, to have this body and heart and blood be moved through the dream in order to be changed.
Literature, movies, visual art – we are moved by experiencing what others create.
But dreams work in us the same way being in our own creative process works in us – because the stories, images, impulses, feelings, experiences, reactions, traumas, triumphs, all of it are our story in some way.
For a long time, I tried to write poems that were directly about a dream. I have heard other writers say that this cheating somehow. Perhaps. Sometimes a dream is a poem that begs to be written down whole. But, I find that this does not completely work, not through a direct path, at least.
Instead, I am finding that my writing and my dreams are more in a dance together. The alchemy and challenges in my dreams inform my writing, the blocks and challenges I have and also openings and possibilities I never considered. My writing, too, informs the inner journey that my dreams offer. Almost like there is a conversation going on between the two – my creative unconscious and my dreaming unconscious.
And for me, they come from the same place. When I write, a door opens into the unconscious that is the same place behind the door that my dreams open.
Stepping into writing and my dreams is about me stepping into the dance between them. Not as reporter, not as tourist, not as voyeur. But as participant. As one learning a dance that is strange and odd and wildly ever-changing.
The dream helps us be in the revelation of the story that is in the cage of our bodies needing to come out. It offers a door, a dare, a guaranteed wild ride. Our writing can be a vehicle for us to be, to fully embody and accept that dare.