If you borrow this book, you have to return it: Becca Klaver
[For this series, I've asked many wondrous writers to reflect on an individual copy of a book that is very important to them. Writers and publishers have varied and often impassioned relationships to their analog books, as actual books are still arguably the "realest" physical manifestation of their poetic pursuits. I think that as the Kindle and other digital representations of text continue their upward spiral, it's important to reflect on books as the uniquely funky-smelling, emotion-provoking, paper-cutting, dust/coffee/spaghetti sauce-collecting artifacts that they are! Check back next week for more top picks!]
Becca Klaver is the author of the poetry collection LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010), a founding editor of Switchback Books, and a PhD student in English at Rutgers University.
On: DREAM DICTIONARY: A Guide To Dreams and Sleep Experiences by Tony Crisp
I’ve heard of people checking off all the words they ever looked up in the dictionary, but I never did that with symbols or scenarios in my dream dictionary. This nighttime reference book has been by my side in every bedroom I’ve ever had, from middle school until today, but flipping through, my unconscious still feels unknowable: the proof of our time together can only be found in its crumbly yellow pages, ground-down corners, and in how my name is scrawled inside the front cover in handwriting that I only half-recognize.
In high school Jenny and I had really similar handwriting. There was always a double-take: Did I write *myself* this note? Jenny and I met young enough that we hadn’t yet dismissed the paranormal, and hadn’t trained our minds to ignore it (have we now?). We believed in enough of the same things that I think our unconscious minds got hooked, so that sometimes we still dream about each other on the same night, fifteen years later. Under ESP in Dreams, my dream dictionary says, “Many dreams appear to extend perception in different ways” and lists dreaming together, dreaming the future, out of body experience, and dream process as computer as some of the common possibilities.
Telling your dream can be like giving a gloss on a poem. You can explain how an image hooks to a word to a sound. It’s a helpful narrative, but does it necessary mean anything more than what the scenes say when not beaded together? The relationship of the parts to the whole might be arbitrary, and by explaining the links, you might be creating something all over again. In a similar way, the dream dictionary’s explanations may be arbitrary—does luggage mean “a baby or our feelings about being a parent”? maybe!—but it can still help you create something. I’ve never looked up any of my poems’ images in the dream dictionary, but I imagine that if I did, I would learn just as much (or as little) about my psyche as I could by looking up a dream image.
I would learn just as much (or as little) about the future as I’d otherwise know by looking up my dreams. People think this is what dream dictionaries do: tell you the future. Under precognition, my dream dictionary says: “As part of the human survival ability, the capacity to predict the future is a well-developed everyday part of life—so much so we often fail to notice it.” I like how my dream dictionary lets in all the possibilities without judging them, a dreamy quality.
Dream logic can enter your life, too, if you let it. This usually happens when sleeping long hours, or writing down your dreams regularly, or meditating, or similar. When this happens, the patterns of your day can feel like dream patterns. This can be enchanting but also nightmarish: When I took “Writing from the Unconscious” as a screenwriting student, my professor, the co-creator of Cirque du Soleil, warned us that weird things might start to happen, and if they did, we should stop. My dreams erupted into my days but like a fool/poet I didn’t stop; I tried to use them.
Maybe my hunch that poems and dreams are made up of the same stuff is obvious or redundant. Is it obvious that it’s the poet’s job to let the unconscious, the forgotten, the shoved-down come up to the surface more often than the average person allows? By “average person,” I mean a person who needs to rely on rational thinking most of the day. When I find I have been that person for days or weeks or months and have forgotten to let the other logic bubble up, I feel it like a vitamin deficiency. Dream-logic scurvy. The only cures: sleep and attention.