“Night Thoughts” by Sarah Arvio

Night ThoughtsHow could I not be enchanted by the premise of this book?  Have you not heard me talk about my own “night thoughts” here?  Is there a more fascinating topic?  Sarah Arvio’s “night thoughts” are not the same as mine, however.  Rather than those panicky thoughts in the moments between waking and sleeping, or that come to you in the dark sleeplessness that confronts you upon being awakened suddenly, she is talking exclusively about dreams.

Well, to say she “talks about them” is a bit of an oversimplification.  She has these dreams, and they are very vivid, many of them also disturbing, with repeating and overlapping images and themes.  Rather than just write them straight out in descriptive, narrative form, she has written a poem about each one, each poem 14 lines, 69 poems in all.

The poems themselves are exquisite in their own right.  That they share actual and intimate dreams the poet/author has actually had make them more amazing still.  But the notes at the end, interpreting the dreams in a true psycholanalysis, were the most fascinating.

You see, the author is a psychoanalyst herself.  And she went into that field to try to make sense of her dreams and underlying thoughts/feelings that she couldn’t quite figure out.  As it turns out, she had some traumatic experiences during her formative years, and these had a lasting impact on her.  She worked through several years of analysis with her own analyst, and together they came up with some really fascinating interpretations of her dreams and how they interplay with the experiences she had when she was younger.

A vivid dreamer myself, I liked most the unmistakeably authentic “dream” logic that was woven throughout the poems.  One good but not exclusive example is from her dream poem “corner,” providing in pertinent part:

I meet my love it’s not night & not day

at a table not indoors or outdoors

the sky is the ceiling or the ceiling sky

In the notes section, of the dreams she said:

The dreams rarely referred to my present life: they drew me into the long past.

The dreams told in these poems are parts of dreams–for me the most memorable and iconic parts.  And then too, there is no such hing as a discrete, separate dreams.  Dreaming is an endless stream.  I don’t know where my dream begins: I dip in somewhere. I know where it ended: with my waking up.  A remembered dream can be a single image, or a long complicated story.

I had many, many more dreams with similar imagery; the poems describe the dreams that seemed to matter most.

p. 80

I love that: “Dreaming is an endless stream.”  We dip in and out.  She also talks about memories of events versus memories of dreams and memories of memories, and how there is not always a clear division between all of them.

She has a lot of repeating symbols/images in her dreams, and many of them are unlike anything I have ever encountered in my own dreams: red, blood, shells, robin’s eggs, snakes, flowers, razors, cutting.  But it all makes sense in the context of the dreams and the experiences they symbolize.

Really, really interesting.  Good poetry and compelling analysis.  I appreciated the candor of the author in dealing with what must have been a sensitive topic.  I will definitely look for more from this author.

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