A DREAMKU PRIMER (Part 3 of 3): Writing Haiku-Like Poems About Your Night Dreams
A DREAMKU PRIMER (Part 3 of 3):
Writing Haiku-Like Poems About Your Night Dreams
How to Write Dreamku
(See previous two posts for Introduction & Part One: Writing Dreamku as Dream Work, and Part Two: Elements of the Haiku Form Used in Dreamku)
These “how to’s” are listed in the approximate order you might use them.
(1) READ HAIKU AND WHATEVER DREAMKU YOU CAN FIND: to absorb what these forms are about. (See sidebar for haiku links and search this blog for “dreamku.”)
(2) ONE DREAM MOMENT PER DREAMKU: Keep your focus narrowed to one moment per dreamku. Once in a great while I’ve found it possible to write a dreamku about an entire long dream, but generally speaking, trying to do so only produced a forced and extremely busy dreamku. Select one moment of the dream you find particularly impactful, intriguing, amusing, or puzzling, or even repellant. I’ve also just closed my eyes, wiggled my forefinger around above my dream notes page, then plunked it down, and written about the moment I wound up pointing to. Whatever gets you writing about the dream! You can always write subsequent dreamku on other moments of that same dream.
(3) “JUMP RIGHT IN, THE WATER’S FINE”: no pre-thinking or analysis; just start organizing words describing the dream moment you’ve picked into the dreamku form. The rest (i.e. what to highlight, how best to describe what, what to drop or add, order of lines, spontaneous insight into the dream, etc.) will flow from that process. Occasionally, I feel drawn to write a dreamku on a moment from an old dream I’ve already analyzed at great length. That can be an intriguing process, too. A few times it has revealed new ways to understand the dream moment or even the full dream.
(4 ) “NO DUMPING ALLOWED”: Don’t toss out a dreamku that doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve found that with dreamku they often benefit from steeping for a while, even more so than other sorts of poems I write. E.g., I’ll enter a questionable dreamku in my little notebook and weeks, even months later I will suddenly see what it needs to work. And even if it never works as a dreamku, you have it as part of the source dream’s record.
(5) INTENSITY PERMITTED: There is a long established “haiku spirit” that is understated and inviting, that makes the expression of emotional intensity in haiku quite a challenge, to say the least, but also helps create that wonderful unforced and frequently very subtle haiku sensibility. I do not think emotional intensity should be avoided altogether in haiku and especially not in dreamku, as emotions can so often be an integral part, even the heart of dream moments. That said, I have found that it is not easy to do within dreamku. Intense words and emotions do tend to overwhelm both the haiku and the dreamku form, to come across as overblown even when most sincerely stated. However, don’t be afraid to try expressing intense emotion, but do carefully read over your intensely emotional dreamku for their possible impact. It may mean you will need to dial back the emotion a bit in order to make it more workable within the dreamku form. So that the form can effectively carry what the dream moment is offering. Of all the aspects of the developing dreamku form, this is the one I wrestle with most. In fact, I can imagine that folk who are knowledgeable about haiku wince when they read some of my more intense dreamku. Though I do think I am gradually learning how to be emotionally expressive in a dreamku in a way that does not sink the poem, nor dilute or do injustice to the dream moment itself. Here’s a dreamku of mine about intense emotion:
she dances on the rocks to
reduce them to sand
In an early version I used the word “grind” instead of “reduce.” I liked the echo of the “gr” in grief, but felt the word “grind” itself made the dreamku too harsh, too heavy. That in effect it ground the dreamku down along with the rocks.
(6) DROPPING FROM AND ADDING TO THE DREAM MOMENT: Don’t hesitate to drop parts of the dream moment as you write the dreamku or, conversely, to be descriptive about the dream moment in a way the dream may not have been as long as it “rings true.” When we start to write a dreamku we are usually entering an intuitive (even sometimes dream-like) frame of mine, and whatever deletions or additions suggest themselves will almost certainly be quite appropriate. Also I believe a dreamku need not be a literal transcript of the dream moment to be true to the dream. Arguably, any experience that is not the actual moment as it is being experienced is memory and, therefore, subject to change in our minds. But even so, stay as close as possible to that dream moment, and know that it may still require tweaking for its life to shine through. Generally speaking, dream moments seem to require paring down in dreamku writing, far more often than amplification.
(7) DATE AND RECORD ALL DREAMKU: in a journal. I keep my dreamku in a different notebook from my dream journal, but you will determine what arrangement works best for you. I do strongly recommend, though, that you date your dreamku the same date as the source dream, no matter when you actually write the dreamku. I’ve found I occasionally want to read the entire dream from which a dreamku came and that way I can find it in my dream journal.
(8) EXPERIMENT: Don’t be afraid to experiment with the dreamku form. But do first become familiar with it’s parameters by writing in it for a while. When you do experiment, try not to go so far afield that the dreamku has no roots in the basic haiku form. I’ve tried writing a few dreamku series – based on one full dream or a series of dreams – in which there is a progression or some sort of link from one dreamku to the next. I also usually write each dreamku in a series so that it could stand alone. (In fact, some of my series consist of “singletons” that I only put together under a title later when I saw that they related to each other.) Below is a series that also illustrates how I’ve tried working with emotional intensity. The overall feel of the series is emotionally dark (dreamku two and five are more explicitly so, and the rest implicitly).
FIVE DUSTY SHARDS
(based on dreams of 12/21/06)
he admits to
the young girl threatens
to call the police
the famous man
signs his photo for the girl
I track the lost girl
by her noisy shoes
the girl rounds on me
with a knife in each hand
Here’s another very experimental series in which I work with repetition, and with having each dreamku depend on the previous – as opposed to being able to stand alone. These departures from my own ideas of what the dreamku form is about were prompted by the content of the dreams. Also, the last dreamku in the series has a definite point to it, which I mostly try to avoid. But it was one of those dream moments that spoke its point – I “heard” the words – and it pulled the previous dream moments together, so I decided to quote it.
(from dreams in March & early April 2007)
her troubled son
is now in my lap
his friend's illness
we don't have to follow
along in these lines
she wears sparkly hose
on her huge legs
my friend casually drinks
they collage the inside
of a glass vase
it's all art
The “pointed” dreamku that ends the above series is a good place to close. If I believe that I can hold on to anything in life it is to the understanding that we create our responses to the present moment. That said, I invite you to create some dreamku and share them. Sharing can be very affirming, encouraging, and inspiring in any sort of writing effort, but especially when you are working in a form new to you. It can also be intriguing to hear of others’ associations to your dreamku. In several instances, the similarities between my dreamku moments and an email friend’s were delightful surprises. One friend said that she had learned something new about her dreamku just by choosing some to share with me by email. You can always email me your dreamku, comments, or questions (click on “View My Complete Profile” in sidebar), or post them in a comment here or under the DAILY DREAMKU. I will be delighted to respond.
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Resources: DREAMS: The International Association for the Study of Dreams. HAIKU: The Isn'ts of Haiku. DREAMKU: See DAILY DREAMKU at top of blog homepage, and search this blog for "dreamku" (there is a post every month of the entire month's daily dreamku).