“From Waking to Dreaming”
–by Kylie Walnoha, The Fourth River Staff
The rarity of being on the end of publishing that involves making decisions for the journal has been a unique as well as a fun journey. I have enjoyed getting to see and experience what goes into putting an issue of The Fourth River together. Though I have read quite a bit of poetry in the last three months, I still come across poetry that I find to be especially engaging, different, and fresh. One such poem was “A Year of Dreams” by Sarah A. Chavez in issue 10 of The Fourth River. Though this poem definitely fits into The Fourth River’s spectrum, the poem’s unique and fresh approach to the idea of place was something that stuck out to me, and stayed with me even days after I had first read it.
In “A Year of Dreams”, the speaker takes us through various scenes, seamlessly weaving in and out of the real world, and the worlds that come alive in their dreams. Though we do not know who the speaker is, or where they come from, we, as readers, are able to somehow get an idea of what might be real for the speaker and what is only a dream. This subtle blurring of the lines between reality and dreams leaves it up to readers to decide what is real and what might only be a dream.
Scenes that appear to be feasible situations, in that they could occur in the real world, intertwined with poetic descriptions and images create a haze over the poem. In the opening stanza, the speaker appears to be grounded in a real situation: waking up after falling asleep:
“I’m in the old house where I slept in the closet just to get away from her.
She’s not there, so I get to command it like it’s mine. I sleep in her bed until
I wake up.”
One has to wonder though, was the speaker really in that house? Did they wake up from a nap or from a dream? Later in the poem, the speaker says:
“The mobile home isn’t there anymore and I’m sleeping on the cheap white
rocks we used.
as grass just when I begin to draw my bed in the debris of siding and
broken plumbing. I wake up.”
This possible, but foggy second mention of a house makes the reader wonder if the old house mentioned earlier and the mobile home are one in the same. This refrain of “I wake up” and jumps in and out of scenes casts a spell over the poem making the speaker unreliable in the sense that the reader can never get a true sense of what is real.
In another stanza, the speaker says:
“The Dark rides my back, grabs at my hair like reins. It grips, pulls up:
my head yanked back, open mouth, soundless scream—then I wake up.”
Since the action is coming from “the dark” it would seem clear that the speaker is dreaming. However, the way metaphor can be used within a poem again, makes things unclear. “The Dark” could be standing in for something real, but the lack of further description of what “The Dark” is makes the reader unsure.
“A Year of Dreams” is a compelling poem that erases the boundary between reality and dreams. It makes the reader look more intently at the language as well as the actions in the poem and attempt to be grounded more securely within the poem.
Kylie Walnoha is an assistant poetry editor for The Fourth River. When not writing poetry, she enjoys traveling and Thai food. She is in her second year of Chatham’s MFA program.