Friday, January 22, 2016

Prompt: Keeping a half-assed dream journal

For the past week, I’ve been trying to remember my dreams.

I’ve formalized the process, actually. I have a dedicated dream notebook that I keep near my pillow, and each night I write the next day’s date at the top of a page and say three times, “I will remember my dreams.”

I never remember my dreams. Not much of them, anyway. Working moms don’t always have the option of waking naturally with a yawn and a stretch. Sometimes some small person screams your name. Sometimes a cat bites your hand. Sometimes the alarm is set for the latest possible moment you can sleep and still make it to work on time. Reflecting and recording are not always in the morning plans.

Still, I’ve found that my dream notebook is good fodder for poetry. I try to remember something every morning, and when I can’t get immediately to the page, I at least dredge up a scrap and invent a little. (I can remember dreams for precisely the length of time it takes to arrive at the toilet, unless I check Twitter on the way.)

My first poetry teacher told me something crucially important once, and I’ve taken it to heart for nearly three decades.

No one cares about your dreams.

Dreams, qua dreams, are of interest only to the dreamer. That makes sense; the people in our dreams are basically other versions of the self, and what happens to them seldom has any rhyme or reason. Thus, keeping a dream journal is a dubious prompt, but I offer it anyway, if only for the midnight rambling that sometimes shows up.

I’m so determined to grab a dream and pin it to the page like the body of a moth on a corkboard. Sometimes I wake to find that I’ve done some recordkeeping when barely conscious—or not conscious at all. Here are some actual records from my dream journal:

In early room (a
food thing like this

took mugs—each one
grounded—washed in lonely

Someone has a pie to give me

Those errors are in the original. My waking self would not tolerate a single parenthesis alone, without its opposite fellow.

I feel inspired by the fact that the early room is a food thing. Is my night brain describing a kitchen? And I like those grounded and lonely-washed mugs. And I really love the phantom figure chasing me with pie. I don’t remember the dream, and I don’t remember the writing of this nonsense—but it resonates in my imagination. I could make something of this.

I do recommend giving a dream journal a try. The interesting parts aren’t the dreams themselves; they’re the juxtapositions and word combinations and odd symbols and midnight gifts. I’m finding that scraps from the night mind can provide a useful starting point for work.


  1. Hmmm...I'd never thought of it this way. I always try to get down as many details as I can remember, but I think the vague impressions from a dream and the struggle to describe them can indeed inspire some interesting writing.

    1. Yes! Like proto poetry. Poems, like dreams, are another negotiation between the conscious and unconscious minds. :)

    2. Yes! Like proto poetry. Poems, like dreams, are another negotiation between the conscious and unconscious minds. :)

  2. Could the single parenthesis be a frown with no eyes? It is an early room...

  3. I think you and this guy had the same poetry teacher:
    It's so true! But I agree, there are some nuggets of poetic inspiration to be had from keeping a dream journal. I've also found that checking my social media notifications prior to writing about/recalling my dreams inhibits the process of dream recall.

    1. But it's ALMOST IRRESISTIBLE! (Shakes fist at Mark Zuckerberg!) :) In the early going, my dream journal isn't useful for much else, but I'm liking the pop-up poetry. :)