Posts Tagged ‘poems based on dreams’


he spent his whole life
listening to emptiness
— hearing only the
deafening cacophony
of his own concentration

I dreamed last night of Fred Plaut, who was an analyst of some standing within the Jungian community up until his death in 2009. As usual, I struggled with a title for my poem. Philosophy — and its cousins psychology and religion — are things I dabble in enthusiastically. Perhaps I should have entitled the poem: dabbling.



seventies heartthrob
David Soul — look at him now
barely able to
walk — so old, so old — more like
a wizened tree than a man

I don’t really have much to add to this by way of explanation. Dreaming of the name Soul must certainly have been suggested by the chapter of the book I’m reading by Charles Nicholl called The Chemical Theatre. It’s about the influence of 16th century contemporary alchemical publications upon the imaginations and writings of Shakespeare, Jonson and Donne. I was reading about Donne yesterday, with examples from his poetry. There was much talk of souls.

The theme of old age — or at any rate late middle age — i.e. the age I am now — cropped up yesterday in the course of my delivering a testimony of lived experience of paranoia as part of my job. I succeeded quite well, better than usual when I do these talks, in getting across the general shape of my life (as it appears to me), as being largely a story of homelessness and mental illness with just a little coda of the most recent ten years spent being ‘normal’ with a job and a relationship. My audience, during questions, kindly asked me how difficult must it have been to adjust to the ways of society at such a late age.

Arising out of my blog two days ago about Stendhal, I was reflecting that he died aged 59, the age I am now. Shakespeare and Beethoven both died in their late fifties too (actually Shakespeare was 52). In that sense, I am an old man.


if I had to sing
the fact of my existence
to the universe —
and the universe declined
to listen — would it matter?

In my dream I was one of a team of three men (the Holy Trinity?) and, between us, we had a plan for saving ourselves — or perhaps the planet. We would broadcast our existence to the listening alien civilisations, using three different artistic media (e.g. dance, poetry and music). The dream was really more about honesty of expression than about futility. I was very hopeful in the dream. I apologise for my pessimistic streak which always creeps into my poems.


however hard I
try to be friends with evil
— it never quite works

Not only may it well be wrongheaded of me to try. It’s also wrongheaded to use the theme of ‘friends’ (which does derive from my dream last night) in order to write about ‘evil’ (which doesn’t). But obviously I’m still thinking about yesterday’s gnostic demiurge.


subvert the Good, by
pursuing the Beautiful –
it’s how the world turns

The first draft of this poem was about light and dark. I prefer this version, but it’s still worth pointing out that darkness and light are natural phenomena, whereas good and evil, beautiful and ugly, are secondary constructs which we create ourselves as human beings. Nevertheless there is some irrational compulsion hardwired into us, whereby we associate goodness and beauty with Light, and evil and ugliness with Darkness. This basic orientation is just a fact about being human, pointless to deny, no matter how much I may enjoy trying to turn good and evil upside down (for instance by identifying God as evil, which occurs with the gnostic demiurge). Behind this morning’s poem lies a dream where I was embracing someone I’ve known ten years and whom I’m really fond of: but she always makes me think of a Sunday School teacher or a Women’s Institute stalwart and so I always find myself battling a temptation to dismiss her as just too mainstream and twee. It was satisfying to embrace her in the dream, and to allow myself to dwell upon my tender feelings towards her. My poem kind of reacts against that, and tries to bring into focus my belief that Sunday School morals are hopelessly inadequate to this universe. This belief corresponds to the part of me that always wants to put her down.


too much guilt, too much
fear — oh simply to dump these
burdens here and now
— become what I truly am,
a giggling imbecile

Yesterday I was at my mum’s. Her living room has books lining the walls. It’s very strange how my intellectual curiosity always flares up when I’m left alone in that room: I feel the desire to read books which I know I’m never going to read. Yesterday I started at one end of the top shelf, examining each title and deciding whether I would keep it or chuck it, supposing I had to make that decision. I was pleased to find myself tempted to say ‘keep’ only once or twice, for the whole of the top shelf. Dumping baggage was a theme that appeared in my last night’s dreams — in a literal sense. I was on holiday and realised that I had acquired quite a lot of stuff which I needed to ditch before packing my bags to go home. The giggling imbecile image derives from Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus — and also possible from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Don’t know why it cropped up here.

The Family Man

so I went mainstream —
without ever the slightest
real idea why
— a straight exchange of darkness
for darkness — who pulled that deal?

I dreamed of a ‘typical middle class’ wife and husband and small children. The whole family was determined to help me in all kinds of unexpected ways. I felt like an interloper. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into their lives. Couldn’t quite understand why they seemed to love me. The Family Man is a movie I saw by accident on telly a good while ago. It was a glossy Hollywood product with a facile message and I loved it. There are so many things wrong with the way we glorify heterosexual family life. Despite feeling so utterly alienated from all that up to the age of about 45, through it all I never lost sight of the fact that I knew it must contain an enormous amount of value that deserved to be affirmed, and that I wanted to experience for myself. Partially, I have achieved this. I have no children but look likely to get married. My poem is saying that even though the mainstream me and the alienated, marginal me look and feel so different, they are both just different forms of self-ignorance.