Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Guest Dreamer: Joan Gelfand on Writing “The Ferlinghetti School Of Poetics”

That dreams can lead to discoveries, both pragmatic and artistic, is well documented. Today's guest dreamer, poet Joan Gelfand, shows us this process in action: for her, a series of dreams germinated a critically acclaimed poem. Following the text of her poem she talks about the dreams and how she put the pieces together.

The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics
“All that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream.” Edgar Allen Poe

I: The dream within the dream within the dream
What is it, Ferlinghetti,
Taking star turns in my dreams?
Strolling in front of cars
Haunting alleyways, stairways,
Bars? Beating moth like flitting through
San Francisco’s sex fraught avenues? In North Beach
Where XXX marks art and
Nasty commerce collide, intersect Columbus,
Telegraph Hill, Jack Kerouac Way.
You are fog whispering in from the sea
On another sunny day.

“There’s a breathless hush on the freeway tonight,
Beyond the ledges of concrete/Restaurants fall into dreams
With candlelight couples/Lost Alexandria still burns.” *

Ferlinghetti’s words sink, weighted
On the business end of an invisible fishing line,
Dredging last nights’ dream to surface, gasping for air
Shivering like some catfish
Eyes bulging, wet lake water dripping off its scales.
The knife of memory slices open
That dream, finds me on haunted streets,
Instructing small boy:
You gotta go to the Ferlinghetti school. It’s totally rad
and completely cool.” 
II: Ferlinghetti Makes an Appearance
Phantom audience shouts: “Higher! Higher!”
Egg the poets on – after all, they’re not on the wire.
Higher? We spin the memory wheel until there’s my father
Strolling through his own Coney Island
And there he is again winning a goldfish
The clerk hands it over fish circling in plastic bag
Big Daddy pretends
It’s all for the kids.
He needed to win like that fish needed water.

III: The Poet Reconsiders
Is the skill of life just keeping on
All the gears oiled, the doors open?
Even if the past keeps drowning and the knifed open
Dream fish still swims around?

In dream theater Ferlinghetti arrives.
Was it the Regal, the Royal or the Metreon?
I rise to make room for he who started everything
Got the wheel of poetry turning, broke
Open language, letters. Vaporized
While he drifts
Haunting my dreams.

*From “Wild Dreams of A New Beginning” by L. Ferlinghetti

Joan on her poetic process: It wasn’t clear to me that a poem was trying until I had the last dream of Lawrence Ferlinghetti walking into a movie theater. The phrase that did emerge from an earlier dream, “instructing a small boy: You gotta go to the Ferlinghetti School! It’s completely rad and totally cool” stuck in my mind. But until the third dream of the movie theater, the phrase hadn’t seemed like enough to build a poem upon.

In building/crafting poems from dreams, I would say that paying attention to dreams isn’t always what it seems – not when it comes to shaping a dream fragment or image into a cohesive work. As you can see in this example, one image was enough to hang onto, but not enough for a whole poem.

When I finally sat down, on a sunny Sunday morning to take the snippets and try to work them into something I started by shaping the significant dream images into 3 separate segments. The three segments ended up being the set up, the evocation of the past, and the role of Ferlinghetti on the poetry scene in SF today.

When I finished the poem, I wasn’t sure if it was any good or not. But I did know that it contained enough SF energy and imagery to submit for Poets 11, a city wide contest judged by the brilliant Jack Hirshman, Poet Laureate Emeritus of the City of San Francisco.

I won.

The poem has gone on to be published five times! The first was the Poets 11 Anthology (2010), The DuPage Valley Review, Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts and the International literary journal “Levure Litteraire.” It’s next debut will be in my forthcoming book, “The Long Blue Room,” due out in February from Benicia Literary Arts.

For more information about my work, my coaching services and my books, see: http://joangelfand.com

And, as always, Keep Dreaming!    Joan

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spill Your Guts

The Dream: S tells the story of a lizard-like creature she tried to kill. Its intestines (guts) came out, but it didn't die. Now she is faced with having to care for the creature for the rest of its--or her-- life, and this care giving will be intense, involving unpleasant chores such as changing diapers. Her only other option is to do a mercy killing. I am aghast at the poor miserable beast and its condition, and think that I would kill it to get its suffering over with and also to put an end to the awful situation.

Interpretation: In waking life S is hypersensitive and seems to have difficulty negotiating the hard, cruel world. Although I don't know her well, she appears to be someone who has been badly hurt. The lizard stands for both the S part of myself, and for what I anticipate will happen if I spill my guts (show my vulnerability). As the dream ego I display my own intolerance to allowing myself to do it: I find the creature disgusting. There's an interesting play on words here that hints at another aspect of the problem. The poor creature is gutless (cowardly) and needs its diapers changed. This primitive (lizard) part of me goes way back, and the dream is telling me to get a backbone.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fretwork Woman

The Dream:
My artist friend P wants to get together but I keep putting her off. After a while I can tell she doesn't believe my excuses, and it's true they are a lack of enthusiasm rather than anything concrete. I just don't feel like getting together. I see an image of a very tall female figure made of interconnected open shapes, a figure made of fretwork.

My friend P represents my inner artist. She is upset and hurt that I don't want to engage with her. I'm feeling too low for creative play. The dream tells me to stop fretting before that's all that's left of me.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

More Possibilities than I Thought

The Dream: I have grown my hair out, and it lies fine and lanky below my shoulders. It's a boring gray/brown color, and although I look youngish I think that the long, fine, dull hair ages me. Then it occurs to me that I can change it. I can curl my hair to give it body. Then I see myself with vibrantly colored red/gold/brown hair, thick and luxuriant, styled with an upward flip at the ends.

Going with the idea that my hair, coming out of my head, is a symbol for my thoughts, the dream shows me changing my dull, lackluster thinking for something new and exciting. The dream message? There's a change I can make, and I'll be glad I did.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Through a Screen Darkly

The Dream: I am at my childhood home. All is dark. I go to the front door; expecting it to be shut and locked. The screen door is shut, but the heavy door behind it is open. Inside all is dark, and I'm not expecting anyone to be there. I call out, alarmed. “Is anyone there? Who's inside?” I get no answer and walk over to the porch by the side of the house, thinking I might have better luck reaching someone through the back door.

I try to get past the screen that separates the dead and the living. I'm in the dark and get no answers. I'm not expecting anyone to be there, yet the evidence of the open door tells me that someone might be inside. The dream hints that “inside” ourselves is the place to find those we love who are no longer with us, but I don't have that realization during the dream. Instead I'm left feeling concerned, uneasy, worried. Has the home been breached by intruders? Is anyone there? The mystery might be solved when I go to the back door, in other words, when I approach the problem from a different vantage point, a different point of view.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ready to Die

The Dream:
The dream was of an image of four squares lined up in a row. I felt that I had achieved what had been necessary, and I was now ready to die.

I felt ready to die in the sense of being “prepared.” I had done the necessary thing and could now move on. When I awakened the dream message left me feeling uneasy until I played with the idea of death in a dream as being the death of no longer needed aspects of the Psyche: in other words, I began to see this death as preliminary to a rebirth. The four squares of the dream remind me of Jung's diagram of the Psyche, with its four functions, and his interpretation of the square as symbolic of a centered Self.