Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Frugal poets guide to dreams as inspiration

“Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?” ~ Joan Didion

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really can come true.” ~ “Yip” Harburg, lyricist for the film “The Wizard of Oz”

Frugal poets have both an unconventional bent and creativity to release untapped or under-appreciated sources of wealth – out of necessity! Frugal poets who are resourceful adopt the philosophy “The best things in life are free.” But free is no good unless you use it. That includes tapping into our dream life.

Our greatest resource and most valuable commodity (if you can call it a commodity?) is our own life. Two-thirds of our life is spent awake. Yet, what about the other third of our life, when we’re asleep, when we enter that timeless realm of symbols and scenarios we call our dreams? Our sleeping and dreaming hours makes up a huge part of our life, a part we shouldn’t dismiss and a part that many of us totally under-utilize. Dreams are free – and can be fabulous. Are we using them to their fullest potential?

Each one of us dreams every night. When someone says, “I don’t dream,” what they really mean, according to dream experts, is “I don’t remember my dreams.” As it is during our waking hours, we get more out of life when we “pay attention.” Can’t we give a little more attention to our dreams? A poet or any person with a frugal poet’s heart, no matter their talents, pays closer attention to the details and nuances of life. A true poet has a keen sense of observation.

Why should we pay attention to only two-thirds of our life and pay not as much to the other third, when we are asleep and dreaming? Ah, we may say, but it’s only a dream! Only? Dreams are not to be dismissed as a series of frivolous visuals. A true poet never looks at a grand oak or a red-winged blackbird and says, “That’s ‘only’ a tree,” or “That’s ‘only’ a bird.” Each tree and bird carries deep its own layered significance and inspiration. So why should we look on what we dreamt just before we wake in the morning to say, “It’s ‘only’ a dream.”

Robert Moss, proponent of “active dreaming” and author of The Three ‘Only’ Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination, argues quite convincingly against the notions of what many might say is “only a dream,” “only a coincidence,” and “only one’s imagination.” According to Moss, and to paraphrase Mark Twain, we observe coincidental connections around us because of the fact that “life rhymes.”

By far, not every dream is a prophetic dream or a “big” dream that may carry long-lasting significance. Yet every single dream we have is loaded with personal meaning that only we can interpret and use more fully. By digging more deeply into our dreams, we can better understand -- if not simply enjoy -- that part of ourselves that acts out these nightly dramas.

Not to mention that dreams hold a lengthy history of inspiring poems, songs, plays and other creative and inventive works. Our dreams can release a wealth of creative material if we so desire. Some have called our dream state “a secret laboratory” or “a creative studio.” If you truly use your dream world as a creative studio, you can’t beat the rent!

Beatles’ singer/songwriter Paul McCartney first imagined the tune of “Yesterday” through a dream. When he awoke, he ran to his bedside piano and pieced together the melody. As well, Beatle John Lennon said, “The best songs are the ones that come to you in the middle of the night, and you have to get up and write them down, so you can go back to sleep.”

In the twilight space between waking and dreaming, Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley imagined the character “Frankenstein.” The chemist Kekule’ dreamt of a snake biting its own tail, which helped him identify the theoretical structure of the benzene ring and basis of organic chemistry.

Elias Howe experimented with the idea of a sewing machine, but couldn’t figure out how the mechanical needle would hold the cloth together. He had a dream in which a group of men were holding spears, but the spears had holes near the tip. This was exactly the type of needle that allowed thread to effectively sew cloth on Howe’s invention, the first sewing machine.

Horror writer Stephen King’s novels “Misery” and “It” found basis in his dreams. In an interview, King said, “I’ve always used dreams the way you’d use mirrors to look at something you couldn't see head-on, the way that you use a mirror to look at your hair in the back. To me that’s what dreams are supposed to do.” 

William Blake, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, Margaret Atwood, Gary Snyder, Nikki Giovanni, Dorothy Parker and nearly every other poet you can think of past and present have turned to their dreams as fuel for poems.

The following is a lighthearted poem by the late Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska. It isn’t focused on one dream, but playfully includes some of the classic dream symbols and images:

 In Praise of Dreams

In my dreams
I paint like Vermeer van Delft.

I speak fluent Greek
and not just with the living.

I drive a car
that does what I want it to.

I am gifted
and write mighty epics.

I hear voices
as clearly as any venerable saint.

My brilliance as a pianist
would stun you.

I fly the way we ought to,
i.e. on my own.

Falling from the roof,
I tumble gently to the grass.

I’ve got no problem
breathing under water.

I can’t complain:
I’ve been able to locate Atlantis.

It’s gratifying that I can always
wake up before dying.

As soon as war breaks out,
I roll over on my other side.

I’m a child of my age,
but I don’t have to be.

A few years ago,
I saw two suns.

And the night before last a penguin,
clear as day.


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