Guest spot: A poet dreaming

Metamorphosis – By Susan Richardson

Some years ago, I was working on my first poetry collection, Creatures of the Intertidal Zone. The book’s main section, inspired by my journey through Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland in the footsteps of an intrepid eleventh century female Viking, was complete, but I didn’t yet have a clear vision for the final part of the manuscript.

Until, over a period of several weeks, prompted perhaps by my reading numerous narratives of Polar exploration to both the Arctic and Antarctic, I had a sequence of dreams featuring that most iconic of polar creatures, the penguin. In one dream, I received a penguin delivery – he was shoved and squeezed through my letterbox until he landed with a slap on the tiled hall floor. In another, I was trying to hoist a poorly penguin into a cardboard box so that I could take him to the vet, while in the most surreal dream of all, I was metamorphosing, flipper by flipper, feather by feather, into a penguin myself.

I’d never written poems from dreams before, but the penguins were impossible to ignore. As I wrote, I pondered on all the images of penguins that exist in popular culture, as well as our persistent commodification and Disneyfication of animals, a theme that seemed to fit well with the environmental strands I’d introduced in the main section of the collection. Gradually, over the next six months, my dream penguins swam and waddled their way into a series of poems that enabled the final part of my manuscript to fall into place.

Creatures of the Intertidal Zone was published by Cinnamon Press in 2007. I was delighted by Helena Nelson’s mini-review of the collection in Mslexia and the fact that she singled the penguins out for a special mention – ‘Susan Richardson’s Creatures of the Intertidal Zone offers a marvellously different blend of passion, pathos, poetry – and penguins.’ I have continued to allow my dreams to feed my poetry ever since.

METAMORPHOSIS

To begin with, nothing drastic.
the odd cold bath, air con on max,
the utter absence of shivers.

Then, the skin tingles, each pore forcing
the shaft of a feather forth, like a lid
with a push-through straw.

I go right off garlic, crisps, samosas,
bright red curtains, Gauguin prints.
If I must stay indoors, I want plain
white tiles, a single chilled white porcelain sink.

And oh, the fingers. Useless, as if mittened.
And stretched, the tips skimming the floor.
Scissors, chopsticks, forks – all binned.

Breasts blend with belly, waist, hips.
I’m lugging a two-fifty-litre rucksack
in an outsize black wetsuit and wellies.
My tears taste of fish.

Fresh fears keep me from sleeping.
The fleck throats of bull seals.
Ice melt. Oil slicks.

I make a nest from the last
strands in my hairbrush and what I once
knew as pencils, and string.

Soon I must push
this hard new truth between my legs
and hatch it.

Creatures of the Intertidal Zone is available via Susan’s website www.susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk as is her new collection, Where the Air is Rarefied

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Guest spot: A poet dreaming”

  1. I loved this. The poem is unforgettable. And I read this with amazement as well as enjoyment, as for the first time only two days ago,( ie, two days before I saw this post), I dreamed I was turning into a penguin of all things! Woke up confused and wondering if this was a token animal making itself felt in the most literal way.
    I remember how during Jen’s dream writing workshops we would, after a few sessions, start to dream similar dreams. Now I have a pleasant fanciful thought of unconscious ‘dream matter’ circulating through word press.

  2. Ooh… I love that idea! And why not? It might well work in exactly the same way with a virtual dream group as a physical one – we’re joining up in the same way ‘out there’… I absolutely adore this post too, it reminded me of the metamorphosis in Scotti Cohn’s post about her dream+book where she recounts actually transforming into an animal, and the poem is wonderful.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s