Poetry and Dream-Work

Poetry and Dream-work

A hand in front of an airplane window holding a piece of paper with words. Photo by Sebastián León Pradoon Unsplash

Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre and other classic novels, had a method for getting unstuck in her writing. When she’d struggled during the day to write that next line, next scene, next bit of dialogue, she put herself to sleep wishing for direction from a dream.

It worked for her. In a big way.

I love vivid dreams, the kind that come in color, the kind you recall, the kind you try to slip back into if you wake too soon, the kind you write about.

For thousands of years, people have been interpreting dreams. Most of the time, I don’t feel qualified to do that. But the dream that inspired the poem below seemed to be a message about voice, and control of voice.

I’m still not sure exactly what that message might have been, but at least I got a poem out of it, a pantoum. The poem was originally published in Rogue Agent, a journal that publishes poetry that’s rooted in the body. The editor, Jill Khoury, is a fine poet herself. If you write poems about bodily experience, and you are looking to get them published, try Rogue Agent!

Unedited
— for Mary Rowlandson

I pull out my own tongue,
having no trouble grasping it.
I tear it out gradually,
and when it comes loose, I fling it on the quilt,

having no trouble grasping
I must live now without a tongue.
When it comes loose and I fling it,
perfectly mauve, sleek as a fish,

I wonder: what can I swallow without a tongue?
It’s smaller than I’d imagined,
and I try swallowing without it
only to discover I’ve grown another already,

smaller than I imagined,
perhaps under the first all along.
If only to uncover another,
I pull out my own tongue.

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