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Alice Notley on Writing from Dreams

An excerpt from the following appeared in Lit Hub's The Craft of Writing newsletter. I've been using dream materials in my poems since I first began writing poetry in the late sixties. I've taken words, images, narratives, parts of narratives from my own dreams and repeated them, transformed them, commented on, and sung them. I did this instinctively in the beginning, without a theory and not particularly out of literary precedent, though there is plenty of that. Partly, it was clear to me that my dreaming self was better at some aspects of poetry writing than I, awake, was—my dreams often surprise me when “I” couldn't. In the early nineties, after having worked for a couple of years on the writing of The Descent of Alette , which draws to a large extent on dreams and on poetic techniques related to dreaming, I wrote an essay called “What Can Be Learned from Dreams,” published in SCARLET in 1991. This essay posits “Dream” as a place or function in me I'm divided from, a place or function that knows things I don't know awake, and is often the better, more imaginative maker. The essay discusses, briefly, the plasticity and the symbolic multiplicity of dreams, and the relationship between dream and myth; and it reflects on the part a sensitivity to one's dreams play in making one's way through the egoism and manipulation of oneself and others abounding in daily life (after all, you're […]

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