From Dream to Prose Poem: The Origin of ‘Grinding Disney’
Posted December 8, 2014on:
For many years I kept a dream journal and consistently recorded my dreams. I did this mostly for personal interest, but also to build a creative repository. My diligence, over the years, in keeping up a dream journal has waned. My dreams are only sporadically recorded and rarely do I mine them for creative ideas. Even rarer still is the occasion that I use a specific image from a dream in a story.
Two years ago, however, I had a dream that was pretty disturbing. I was in a forest and in it stood a gigantic meat grinder. And, all sorts of fantastical characters were being thrown in. Many Disney characters. I don’t know who or what was operating it. Think body parts everywhere. Gruesome, I know. I woke up and immediately recorded this dream in my journal. For the past two years, I could not get this image out of my head. Why and how did my psyche throw together meat grinding and Disney?
There is a wonderful book by Naomi Epel called Writers Dreaming that features prominent writers discussing the intersections between their dream life and their creative life. Steven King, in his interview, likens most dreams to a kind of “mental or spiritual flatulence”, a pressure relieving mechanism that helps process the mundane aspects of life. But, he also likens some dreams to big underwater fish that we rarely see:
“…if you go down real deep, you see all these bright fluorescent, weird, strange things with membranous umbrellas and weird skirts that flare out from their bodies. Those are the creatures that we don’t see very often because they explode if we bring them up too close to the surface. They are to surface fish what dreams are to our surface thoughts. Deep fish are like dreams of surface fish. They change shape, they change form. There are dreams and there are deep dreams.”
King also notes only a few instances where he was able to use a dream image unaltered in a story. My ‘meat grinder dream’ didn’t leave me alone. I wanted to find a way to write about it.
I’m happy to say with a little trial and error, I did find a way. The poem and flash fiction pieces that I wrote were like nothing else I had ever written before. It’s dark and creepy. Every time I wrote a draft, I felt like I was walking back into the eerie nature of the dream. My flash fiction/prose poem piece ‘Grinding Disney #2’ was just announced as placing in the 2014 Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest under the ‘Long form’. I bet you didn’t know there was an association devoted to studying and promoting science fiction poetry. Neither did I until recently and I love what they do. They are interested in “poetry with some element of speculation—usually science fiction, fantasy, or horror, though some include surrealism, some straight science.” It was founded by one of my favorite writers, Suzette Haden Elgin. SFPA “holds an annual open contest, and yearly awards for speculative poetry: the Rhysling Awards for individual poems, the Dwarf Stars Award for short-short poems, and the Elgin Awards (new in 2013) for genre poetry books and chapbooks, named for the SFPA founder.”
Poet and editor Kenji Liu was the judge and I am thrilled to be in the company of such amazing poets.
Here is a tidbit of my poem:
I have a meat grinder and I have brought it to this forest. Invitations were sent and as the light fades, I see them twirl in, oblivious to danger. Leading the way is the fairest of them all (why doesn’t she use sunscreen nowadays?), the one who keeps losing her shoe, the one who went from mermaid to human and the rest of the princesses and common girls assemble.
Read the rest of my poem and all the amazing winning poems here.
I hope a dream or two of yours will bring up some deep fish.
Photo: The ‘sarcastic fringehead’ from jwz.org.