Sunday, March 12, 2006


About a week ago a lucid snippet of dream caused me to suddenly awake from my slumbers and I have been puzzling its significance since then, wondering if it was a sign that the oracular or divinatory stage of my development is now possible.

I don't fully understand what this stage is all about and only have my own poetic experience to go by, but the process used to chart the topography I believe I’m anchored in and moving through, is one of intuition and this very powerful dream-snatch is one of the few I have experienced which I instinctively feel to be predictive.

Demios Oneiron is the Village of Dreams on the way to Hades in Greek myth and Artemidorus of Daldis in Asia Mionor was a 2C Roman writer who wrote the Oneirocritica, a critical study of 3000 people’s dreams. This was the first text Guttenberg printed after the bible, and indicates the importance it was held in during the dawning days of mass print.

Artemidorus categorized five dream states, 3 predictive and 2 non-predictive. The 3 predictive are –

1 – Oneiros – allegorical/symbolic

2 – Homora/visio - literal predictive

3 - Chrematismos/Oraculum – an apparition of God or other who tells fortune

But back to the dream. I was facing a small audience of fellow poets from the weekly Write and Recite grouping, and I was about to deliver a poem from memory. We were in some kind of half enclosed half outdoor environment and there was an invisible microphone in front of me, in the sense of I had a clear focus on exactly where my mouth had to position itself to speak. My intention was to lean back slightly, physically swivel round a full revolution on my right foot and, as I stomped down my left foot on successfully completing this manoeuvre, launch into a poem.

At the moment of first turning I noticed a tree to the left of me in a first budding of spring leaves which were the colour of pale apple skin and I said

we should give thanks for this,

- opining we should thank the creator for all life. As I went through the full revolution, everything occured in slow motion, and as the turn continued I immediately saw the back of a monk dressed in a brown woollen habit who was performing some kind of ceremony. I instinctively knew that I was witnessing, and had become part of, a scene from the 7C.

If you imagine a full circle of 360 degrees and a line down the middle splitting it in two, then the 21C audience of fellow poets were awaiting my performance in one half and did not see the 7C scene I had suddenly become privy to and which was happening opposite them in the opposing semi circle. It was as though they were facing an invisible three dimensional cinema screen showing a scene which ran down a centre line, and I had straddled either threshold to became part of these two realities simultaneously.

As soon as I caught site of the monk I felt an incredible surge of energy, as though I were a jump jet about to take off, and before my back was fully turned on the poet audience they witnessed my facial reaction to what I was seeing. But unaware of what I saw, they misread my expression and mistook it for one which signalled that I was going into comedic mode, and the first rumblings of a laughter cloud began to surge amongst them in that half of my dual reality. I realised that there had been some kind of slippage or kink in the fabric of the continuum and I had inadvertently become enmeshed in two existences at once, and a millisecond before completing the revolution I awoke with a start.

Artemidorus believed that the interpretation of dreams is nothing other than the juxtaposition of similarities.....

......and with one significant alteration, I can mangle this quote into service as the maxim describing my essential theory of poetry –

Poetry is nothing other than metaphor, or the juxtaposition of difference.

Essentially a combining of difference, which Samuel Johnston summed up in his essay on the metaphysical poets of the 17C

The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together.

The basics of this, and the smallest component of a poem are startling word combinations that do not usually appear side by side, which constitute the kernel unitary pieces of poetry: words like - concrete/icecream tarmac/bagpipes or paperweight/tractor.

So these lie, like the start point in a set of concentric ripples, at the heart of the poetic art, and the furthest extension of them is the basic idea behind the conceit of a poem. So in Heaney's 1966 poem Digging,the various binary differences that appear in one whole to form the outer reaches of the basic conceits are -

father/son manual/mental pen/spade

and some of the startling word combinations are -

squat pen and loving the cool hardness.

From what I can gather through piecing together the various writings on Celtic poets from the bardic tradition, divinatory training began in the eighth year of study and culminated in Ollamh status. However not every poet was capable of oracular practice because the highest level of poetic insight was only gained by those who experienced the widest range of joy and sorrow.

The blueprint of
  • Amergin's 7C Cauldron of Poesie

  • poem outlining how the poetic gift operates, states that everyone is born with three cauldrons in them.

    A cauldron of Incubation - which is born upright in every person and which distributes wisdom in their youth.

    A cauldron of wisdom, which is born on its lips (upside down) and which distributes wisdom in every art including poetry

    A cauldron of motion, which is born on its lips in ignorant people and slanted in those with the poetic gift.

    The cauldron of incubation and wisdom are only mentioned once and it is clear from the text that the cauldron of motion is by far the most significant, as this represents the potential and natural poetic capacity one is born with. The poem states that 50% of people are born with the cauldron slanted, and 50% with it on its lips or upside down.

    So a person born with a slanted cauldron of motion is born with poetic potential, as it means it will be possible to fill up, and can be visualized like a glass tilted at 45 degrees beneath a tap, whose pouring of water will enter the glass. Every other person who is born with it on its lips means that their container is upside down and will be unable to fill, much like pouring water onto an upside down glass.

    The water in this case comes in the form of the four human sorrows and four human joys in life, as outlined in the poem. Each joy or sorrow experienced is capable of turning the cauldron of motion, and the more it turns the more upright it becomes, until, in those who acheive the Highest Streams, it ends up on its back, and the highest ridges of poetic wisdom have been reached where the oracular poet's waffle and insight can froth over.

    When the text is analysed it is pretty simple and commonsensical, as what it says is that anyone born with the poetic gift has the potential to reach the highest streams, but these will only come to those who experience the widest range of joy and sorrow, and couple it with hard writerly graft and constant study. Like any other profession, it is not necessarily the most naturally gifted who reach the top, but those who stick at it and go the full course. Michael Caine has an apt analogy which illustrates this idea. He says that actors from his generation found success through hanging on whilst everyone else dropped off, and it was more a case of the last few standing than the swiftest and most able being winners in the race.

    The 50% division of who has natural capacity may be arbitary, but it reflects the fact that some are born with more natural linguistic ability than others. The motion of the cauldron is described –

    What is this motion? Not hard; an artistic turning or artistic after-turning or artistic journey, i.e., it bestows good wisdom and nobility and honor after turning,

    I picture the cauldron of motion as being the repository of our life experience, and how we choose fill, ie live our life, dictates how our poetic development turns out (no pun intended) and I am trying to figure how this turning type dream connects to the cauldron text. Maybe it's my equavalent of Yeats' automatic writing and the instructors who came and gave him metaphors to use in his writing.

    But the quote which resonates with me most is by Pierre Curie, the husband of Marie, who stated -

    You have to make your life a dream in order for your dreams to become reality.

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