Monday, March 23, 2009

Poetry comes from flooding

Stefania Pandolfo’s beautiful, polyphonic Impasse of the Angels: Scenes from a Moroccan Space of Memory (University of Chicago Press) evokes the landscapes – imaginal more than physical – of rural Moroccan villagers for whom dreaming and poetry are vitally important, and always interweaving.

“Poetry is always the result of flooding”, a younger poet tells her. A real poem bursts from an emotion that is inundating, overwhelming – until it finds creative release.

The most respected poet in the area, one Sheikh Mohammed, was alien to poetry until he dreamed of a flood. The dream came at a time of personal trauma when he was close to despair. Previously a violent man of action, he had managed to blow off his right hand in a gun accident.

He dreamed the river was coming down in flood, its front like a mountain, carrying everything it encountered in its path, trees and carrion and debris. Instead of fleeing, he stood there in the dry riverbed, watching and waiting. Then he opened his mouth and swallowed the flood and everything borne along by it.

“Upon waking he recounted the dream to his mother: ‘The river in flood entered my mouth and I swallowed it.’; and she told him that he had become a poet. He who had never recited a verse or cared for poetry, he who had even ridiculed poets in his previous life, began to ‘speak’, to utter poetical ‘words.”

I am reminded of a personal dream of a flood that was a watershed in my creative life. I dreamed I was watching a tremendous wall of water rushing towards where I stood with an animal friend. Instead of fleeing, I prepared myself to catch the wave and ride it. I woke charged with creative energy. I still regard that dream – which I titled “Inundation” – as one of the most powerful creative experiences of my life, and in group visioning in my workshops I have adapted it as a portal through which others can find their own creative power.

Stefania Pandolfo demonstrates that if we plunge deep enough into the specifics of a remote culture (in this case into a world of vernacular Arab poetry unknown to most people even in the Arabic-speaking world) we find themes and processes that are part of our common humanity.


Karen K said...

Dear Robert,

I love the notion that 'poetry is always the result of flooding'. It corresponds very much with my own experience. One of my most powerful, juicy and deeply healing dreams of my own, came during a period of illness lasting many years - In this dream, my friend, Katherine says that when the polar caps melt, then the Saffron Lands beneath will be revealed. This story has carried me through healing, much flooding to wellness ( and ongoing flooding no doubt) and to the present day where, indeed, I see the beautiful and wild Saffron lands where my own music and songs are growing with joyful abandon.
Sweet dreams
Karen K

Robert Moss said...

Dear Karen - What a glorious landscape for healing and creating. May you grow many wonderful songs in the Saffron Lands!

fran said...

Thanks for bringing up the flood topic, it chimes with my current pattern and has opened up an old mysterious dream in a new way.

In our nightly family reading time we are now reading "Many Waters" by Madeline L'Engle, which takes place in the time right before the great flood of Genesis. While we've been reading "many waters" I have been thinking about one of my favorite stories, the story of Gilgamesh and specifically about Utnapishtim, the Noah character of that story. In that story the gods conspire to destroy the world but the flood is so great and terrible that even the gods themselves become frightened. Utnapishtim, with the help of the god Ea, survives the flood. He then holds the secret of immortality and is sent away by the gods to live at the source of all waters after surviving the flood, where he is sought by Gigamesh after his beast-man friend Enkidu dies. The characters in Gilgamesh are wonderful and mysterious and have always stayed with me and have lots to teach. Along with these stories I've also recalled a dream from last year about a flood that I've considered to still be 'open'.

I grew up in the small Pennsylvania village where my mother was born. The village was along a river and in the flood plain. Every few years the late winter mountain runoff was too much and we'd be inundated. Growing up, a flood was always a time of disruption and extra chores. We couldn't drink from the well and we would lose our heating and often the electricity. And after the flood there was all of the cleaning to do, scraping up the mud and whitewashing basement walls and cleaning everything. I'd never lived through a serious flood, where houses were covered or destroyed, but my mother certainly had.

My flood dream starts with me as a small child in my mother's house. It feels like a long time ago. We look out the window into the street and see that the road has been replaced by a railroad. But waters are slowly rising around the tracks and firemen are there loosening the rails to allow the waters to flow through. They leave the rails just sitting in the water. I go down to look and the water is coming between the houses in a great wash. It is a lot of water, full of motion. Very clear but greenish. It is all moving and there are people around. I felt the presence of my mother.

When we worked on this dream in my dream group we didn't get too much out of it. I felt that this could have been an experience of my Mother's when she was a child. The quality of the time seemed to be from the late 30s when she was a small child. Since she had departed earlier that year I'd experienced other dreams and visions where I saw her dealing with various stages of her afterlife journey and I felt that she was now in a resting place. Somehow I associated this dream with that. There is a sense that I'm sharing awareness of this with her. Another really interesting aspect of the dream was the quality of the water, the way it moved, the color of it, the crystal clarity of it, the way it washes toward me like a roiling cloud, but transparent. There's a feeling here that I find hard to explain. It's complex.

You posting about poetry and flooding has opened up a new view of this dream, that it is more about my feeling and my experience. I'd never thought about myself as a writer, or writer of poetry. I'd always expressed myself with my hands, sculpting or carving or drawing. Years ago a psychic had told me that I had a path as a writer available to me, but I shrugged it off as unlikely. Yes, I'd had a few articles published in the past and had done a lot of writing for my job, but really, me? a writer?

But since the time of that dream I have been writing more and much more so in the last month. The water looks inviting. I think maybe I'll even try my hand at a poem about this.

This is a great blog you have Robert, I've found lots of food for thought and interesting conversations.