Dreamday by Amelia Walker launched at the AAWP 2017 conference at Flinders University by Dominique Hecq on 1 December 2017.
Amelia Walker’s new book, Dreamday, vividly tracks the contents of dreams attuned to phenomena that reside both under and beyond the surface of things. The poems retrace the events in one day of the narrator’s life, opening her private world onto the public sphere through a voice that is at once playful, witty, sensitive and assertive.
The Interpretation of Dreams is one of Freud’s most important contributions to psychoanalysis. It is at once surprisingly clear and confusing. The key idea is that ‘The meaning of every dream is the fulfilment of a wish’ and Freud is quite categorical about this. He adds: ‘there cannot be any dreams but wishful dreams’ (134). To illustrate his thesis, Freud tells the story of little Anna who, denied strawberry cake during the day, dreamt that night of enjoying the most delicious cake. Our dreaming activity, Freud explains further, is a regressive reactivation of the hallucinatory means of ‘wish-fulfilment’. Nonetheless, on the same page, Freud hesitates and writes: ‘I feel certain in advance that I shall meet with the most categorical contradictions’ (134). One of these contradictions concerns ‘anxiety dreams’, or nightmares that indeed undermine the idea that dreams fulfil wishes. It is this contradiction that Amelia Walker explores in refreshing ways in her new book of poems, Dreamday. In ‘Prelude’, she asks:
Are dreams simply desires
too wild, too deep to seek
or even speak
Is that why we have nightmares?
Is that why they frighten us so?
The book provides an array of answers to these questions set against the very idea of interpretation.
Dreamday comprises twenty-eight ekphrastic poems. It began ‘as a poetic response to Dreamscape, an exhibition of works by South Australian artists at the Campbelltown ArtHouse’. Some of the poems were displayed together with the artworks. Others were written retroactively. The collection is preceded by a ‘Poet’s Note’, or exegetical foreword, where Walker writes about her encounter with the visual material, its emotional impact and influence on her writing process. Here, she states: ‘We must dream, and honour our dreams, in order to live actualised lives. In this, she is closer to Jung than Freud. Jung disputed Freud’s ‘wish fulfilment thesis’. He believed that dreams are doing the work of integrating our conscious and unconscious lives—he called this the process of individuation. In ‘Meeting Morpheus’, Walker briefly reconciles Jung and Freud with direct reference to the act of creation:
Ah, creation…Morpheus would muse. But you’ve mistaken me.
I’m a weaver more so than a maker. My name means ‘form’
which most often means reshaping, much like this old chair
you call a throne—jagged fragments thrown together,
sourced from the wreckage of gone thoughts, polished
‘til seams between mirror and windows blur,
become new reflections, new outlooks.
This process is not work, to me. Or if it is, it’s work that sustains
rather than drains, for along the way I salvage certain parts
of my materials, marvel at the sparkle of unhemmed pieces,
and sometimes even arrangements abandoned along the way
–failure merits more credit than it gets.
Just as Morpheus balances success and failure, this book balances night and day, dream and daydream, truth and desire. Above all, it resists the ‘meaning’ ascribed to dreams, including dreams within dreams and other nightmares, by psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and other interpreters of the human psyche.
– Dominique Hecq
Dominique Hecq grew up in the French-speaking part of Belgium. She read Germanic Philology at the University of Liège and then flew over to Australia where she completed a PhD on exile in Australian Literature. She also holds an MA in Literary Translation. Dominique is the author of a novel, three collections of short fiction, five books of poetry, and two plays. Over the years, her work has been awarded a variety of prizes, including The Melbourne Fringe Festival Award for Outstanding Writing and Spoken Word Performance (1998), The New England Review Prize for Poetry (2005), The Martha Richardson Medal for Poetry (2006), and the inaugural AALITRA Prize for Literary Translation in poetry from Spanish into English (2014). Her poems have been published in anthologies, journals and on websites in Australia and overseas. Having recently reconnected with her mother-tongue, Dominique is currently negotiating the pleasures and perils of self-translation. Hush: a fugue (2017) is her latest book of poetry.