The Soul of the Matter: “It is good we are dreaming…”

I love Emily Dickinson’s succinct word choices. Because of them her poetry can mean exactly what it says, or a world of other things can bloom from her writing depending on the reader’s state of mind. It inspires me that she reportedly spent days, weeks, months, even years choosing and re-selecting just the right words to convey emotion and sentiment and life into her poetry.

There are those who don’t connect as much to the darker themes that flowed from her creativity. Some find her approach jerky and caustic and truncated before full understanding can evolve from the images she conjures. Particularly in a poem like this “dream” one I selected a phrase or two to set off a particularly turbulent moment in Christmas on Mimosa Lane. But for me, it’s forever magical each time I dive in:

We dream—it is good we are dreaming—
It would hurt us—were we awake—
But since it is playing—kill us,
And we are playing—shriek—

Granted she loves herself some punctuation, and I’m a writer who would avoid all em dashes and colons and semi-colons in my work if I could. But I don’t think it’s as simple as her trying to enforce the rhythm she wants the reader to follow. I see a broader brilliance in what she’s doing. An encapsulation of theme and purpose, allowing us to take away small bursts of understanding, even if we don’t continue to read the rest of what she offers.

ED understanding

It IS good we are dreaming.

Dreams can protect us from reality. We all dream and wish we didn’t have to wake. And shouldn’t the goal be to play and shriek and face what we fear might kill us, in those places we go to in our dreaming minds?

Where else would it safe (good) enough to deal with all that we need to, in the hopes of understanding ourselves enough once we return to avoid the very things we feel threatened by?

I’ll share just one more stanza from this poem to give you a better idea of why I selected a few snippets from it for COML:

What harm? Men die—externally—
It is a truth—of Blood—
But we—are dying in Drama—
And Drama—is never dead—

This is a kind of reversal for me, where she takes the very safety of the dreams that protect us, turns them on their ears, and begins to show us the harm of ONLY living in dreams.

Which is the theme and point of using this poem in my Christmas story. Our heroine, Mallory, is dealing with haunting dreams of her past. But are the memories only in her past? Or is she perpetuating the beginning that shaped/warped her, amidst the very present she’s wanting to create light years away from her damaged beginnings?

no drama

We create our own drama, ED seems to be saying here.

Do we only get hurt in reality? Or perhaps the deepest cuts are the ones we give ourselves by staying backwards (or inward) reflecting on the drama of the dreams we dream and the lives we’ve lived, instead of truly existing where the truth could hurt, yes, but it could also move us forward.

I write a lot about going back and dealing with your past so you can live fully in the present and have the happily ever after future/ending a romance novel promises a protagonist (and a reader ;o). I sense the same intent each time I re-read so many of her poems.

We have to work on both planes (deal with both who we were AND who we’re becoming, just as Mallory does in Christmas on Mimosa Lane), in order to leave the drama behind and capture the peace and safety within ourselves we’re all searching for…

Other Soul of the Matter posts discussing Emily Dickinson’s poetry:

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