I’m not a poet. Many years ago I wrote some bad poetry and sent it into the college literary magazine at UMO. This was during my freshman year, and my poems got soundly rejected. I now leave the work of poetry to my son, Mark.
I mention poetry and a particular work of poetry for a reason that will soon become apparent.
John Berryman was a popular poet during the 1960s when it seems poetry was ubiquitous in America. That period was many things—both good and bad. It was a time when artists (and poets) had more cultural cred, or so it seems now in retrospect.
Perhaps Berryman’s most enduring work from that period was 77 Dream Songs. Later, Farrar, Straus and Giroux combined those poems with His Toy, His Dream, His Rest (a National Book Award for Poetry winner in 1969) in The Dream Songs—385 “songs” along with an index of first lines from each, a note from Berryman (who committed suicide in 1972 by jumping off the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis), as well as an intro from fellow poet, W.S. Merwin. This compilation and book-length “long poem” is what most people read, if they even know who Berryman is. The 21st century doesn’t seem to be a boon period for poetry.
All of this comes by way of introduction to today’s post about a dream I had last night. I don’t think I’ve blogged about my dreams, at least not as extensively as my sister has on her blog. I’ll leave dreaming and blogging to her most days. For today, however, I’ll touch down on last night’s dream sequence, ala Berryman.
In my dream, I was teaching a Sunday school class of young skulls full of mush. For some reason, my text was from Mark 14:7, where Jesus says “the poor you will always have with you.” (NIV) My frame of exposition in the dream was that like most issues in society, “poverty isn’t a black and white matter.” By this I wasn’t offering a racial analysis, but informing my students that poverty and being poor wasn’t a simple binary issue of understanding.
There was a man in my class (in the dream) that caused me some consternation back in the days when I was leading a statewide initiative. He was an asshole, really and said some things to me that should have elicited a “why don’t you go and fuck yourself” response from me. Instead, I took his browbeating and internalized it.
Why do dreams visit us during sleep time, and why do we conjure up these visions based somewhere in our subconscious? A fascinating thought and a topic for others more given over to interpretation of those kinds of things.
Actually, as I was driving to work yesterday morning, there was a young woman in her early 20s, sitting at the corner of Pleasant and Maine in Brunswick. As I sat at the light, I thought she looked like she may have spent the night on the street, as in being homeless. I can’t say for sure.
While I know Brunswick has people who are homeless, especially given that there is the Tedford Shelter in town, seeing this woman at 7:30 a.m. made me thankful that I’ve never had to spend time on the street, in search for a roof over my head.
Like my dream double last night, I’d concur that homelessness and poverty aren’t “black and white” issues. They are complex and each person’s story varies from another one’s. But in a world of binary solutions to each and every problem and issue, we’re likely to never get at some of the root causes. Instead, we’ll do what we usually do—stick a Band-Aid over the scab and call it good.
Here’s “Stuck Between Stations,” mentioning Berryman (about 1:38) by name and references his flight off the bridge to his death. It’s by The Hold Steady, a band fronted by a talented poet/lyricist, Craig Finn.