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

No comments:

Post a Comment