Dream Poetry & Psychosis

crop person outstretching hand in forest

Maybe’s it’s because of my medication and the heat in the night, but I’ve been dreaming and remembering them in when I wake. I’ve even been waking up surprisingly around 1 am, and the dreams segment themselves, sometimes blending from the former, sometimes finding new scapes to traverse.

It’s been reminding me of a course I took once entirely devoted to dream poetry and keeping a specific journal to capture the material lest it float away in the concrete world. I had to get over truth in the effort, as sometimes the dreams were scant, only seconds worth of sleep. I didn’t exactly embellish things, but it was more like pulling harder at the shapes and sensations of the dreams, making elongations enough for words and potential narrative.

The poems I’ve been writing lately, including the ones that aren’t from my dreams, though, have no trouble with finding narrative language inside their experiences. There’s something more direct about the work, more focused on steps in time accessible to the reader, as if the connective tissue of the scenes and sensory activity have deepened.

It’s been about ten years since I’ve written from my dreams in a real or consistent way, yet the entry is as fresh as then. I also wonder about the effects of my writing and reading practices since then, their potential for influencing what has been happening lately. Am I more collected now, more extensively gathered in my person? How much does my being properly medicated facilitate the making?

Once, I was psychotic.

I wasn’t on drugs, including my antidepressants, and I was found wandering a corner property of my grad school, trying to take off my clothes, enter the sheep pasture, kiss and dance with disturbed passersby, more. It scared so many people, but I had a blast. I thought I’d found a sliver between worlds of being, between the spiritual and magical and the known realm of the Earth. I heard the happy voices of my witch-mothers calling me, and the love of the universe brimming inside my skin, while at the same time, I wept for the losses and wounds of being alive and human. A friend found me, and I spent about 4-5 days on a behavioral health until, buzzing with psychosis/mania’s receding.

I was allowed a composition notebook within the first day on the unit, and wholly intent on writing it, I scrawled down my day of total psychosis before I lost it to memory’s shading: I made an artifact that I knew was going to help me find my way back.

I’ve submitted my transcription as a poem to countless publications; none have bitten yet, but I’ll keep going. Some have construed the work as a piece of fiction, enough so that they think it appropriate to tell me to “heighten the truth” of schizophrenia (not my neurodivergence). It’s okay. How are they to know that the work is nonfiction unless I were to tell them directly? How would that not influence their decisions and interpretations of risk in running my work? I understand the apprehension. Plus, it’s three pages long in prose formatting. Where does that fit?

With all of these questions, I think about the experience of a poem and the kind of results truths. Are they not a kind of psychotic event in themselves, as figurative language and tools borrow the bending of concrete living to invent entry into a poem’s thinking and feeling, which are often a wilderness of sorts seeking the readers’ bodies to do the sense-making.

I believed all that I was doing was the obvious, most rational move, too, and poems invite similar. There is reason and magic in the same stride, just like dream. I recorded my experience as directly and “unbeautified” as possible, but some poems, including dream poems, operate exactly the same in the process of composition.

I’ll keep an eye on my rationality’s nearness to the ground in waking hours, but my dream poems are going to keep rollin’ out their efforts. I hope you’ll walk with them.

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