Poems are Dreams – Or Not?
He says that poems are dreams
manifest on paper
that poems are from
your deep subconscious
they float up to the surface
of your brain then flit down
the neural pathways
into your fingertips and onto
the tip of your pen.
But what if he’s wrong?
what if they are an expression
of frustration with everyday life?
what if they are anger
at the foolishness of politicians?
what if they are observations
of simple events?
what if they are cracks in the edifice
through which we shine a torch?
what if they are a reaction
to life’s tragedies and triumphs?
what if they are rampant emotions?
what if they are jokes
played on or with the reader?
what if they are all of these
and only some are dreams ?
© Mike Hopkins 2011
I was given a copy of The Best Australian Poems 2011 (editor John Tranter), as a departing gift from some very nice work colleagues on finishing my contract with Country Health SA last week. Today, I cycled up to Brownhill Creek, sat under a river redgum with a thermos of rooibos, and started to read it.
I read about a quarter of it, and then dipped into other parts of the book at random. I was almost immediately hit by the impenetrability of many of the poems (not all of them e.g Jude Aquilina and Melinda Smith are two exceptions in what I’ve read so far). So then I did what I don’t usually do. I read the editor’s introduction. In it, John Tranter proposes that poems can be read as dreams. He says of his selection of Australian poems:
“I suspect that these baroque and potent imaginings can only have come into existence as fragments of dreams or nightmares”
“enjoy this fragment of dream-work”
“of course if you don’t agree with my line of thinking, you can always ask for a second opinion”.
Well, my opinion, partly expressed above, is that if he has used this filter (i.e. looking for poems which resemble the result of dreams), then he has excluded all sorts of equally valid types of poems. I’ve always found dreams (mine and anyone else’s) difficult to interprete (other than the obvious Freudian interpretations). Maybe this is why I don’t understand many of the poems in The Best Australian Poems 2011.
Am I the only one who has this difficulty? I’ve had it with previous editions of the book, but I don’t have it, for instance, with Best of American Poetry anthologies. Nor do I have it with most of the poetry I hear around Adelaide. Are these “dream poets” writing for the general populace, or just for each other? Am I being harsh, or is it just that I don’t “get it”? Have Australian poetry anthologies been ‘captured’ by a sub-set of Australian poets who all write in the same style, for the same small audience?
Perhaps Darryl Kerrigan should edit Best Australian Poems 2012?: