Poetry and Dreams

In the second of our summer series of workshops we will:

  • Take a moment to think about how poetry and literature can give us new ways of relating to each other.
  • Read and react to literature on the theme of ‘dreams’.
  • Talk through some different poems reflectively together, adding in some snippets from other favourite writers, and use them to think about our own experiences.

Our aims are:

  • For us to have fun together and learn from each other by talking about literature
  • For you to leave with some new ideas and some new language, and to be inspired to share these with others
  • For us all to think about what matters to us and to gain some new perspectives, helped by the poetry

Tips for getting into the poems!

  • Can you put the finger on what “works” for you, and what doesn’t hit the mark? Are there any specific words, images, colours, sounds or ideas that stand out?
  • What do the poems remind you of? Song lyrics, images, films, or memories of your own?
  • What kind of perspective would we need to feel that we are walking in the poet’s shoes?
  • Are there any contradictions in the poem?
  • Do you think the poem conveys a particular idea or a message? What is the poet trying to tell us?

The poems

We’ll have the poems in front of us, but if you would like to read them in advance you can see below or email cambridgegooddeath@gmail.com for the worksheet (available in large or standard size text).

1) Excerpt from A Dreaming Week, by Carol Ann Duffy

2) ‘Dreams’, by Helen Hunt Jackson

Mysterious shapes, with wands of joy and pain,
Which seize us unaware in helpless sleep,
And lead us to the houses where we keep
Our secrets hid, well barred by every chain
That we can forge and bind: the crime whose stain
Is slowly fading ’neath the tears we weep;
Dead bliss which, dead, can make our pulses leap—
Oh, cruelty! To make these live again!
They say that death is sleep, and heaven’s rest
Ends earth’s short day, as, on the last faint gleam
Of sun, our nights shut down, and we are blest.
Let this, then, be of heaven’s joy the test,
The proof if heaven be, or only seem,
That we forever choose what we will dream!

3) Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, W. B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

4) ‘A Dream Within A Dream’, Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand–
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep–while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

The quotations

“A dream is all made up of the waking man’s ideas, though for the most part oddly put together.”
John Locke

“…but when composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline, and the most
glorious poetry that has ever been communicated to the world is probably
a feeble shadow of the original conceptions of the poet.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.”
Langston Hughes

“We are such stuff asdreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
“A dream itself is but a shadow.”
Shakespeare, The Tempest and Hamlet

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is
that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
Oscar Wilde


Some other recommendations on the theme of ‘dreams’.

You may like to have a look at Words for our selection of poetry and prose.

Emma’s recommendation: Enjoy this amazing mashup of Eminem’s Sing for the Moment against Aerosmith’s original Dream On (from which Eminem took the backing track).
Laura’s recommendation: Tennyson’s long balladic poem Sea Dreams

We’d love to hear your thoughts and learn from your insights and experiences.

We are actively collecting feedback on your experiences of the workshop and especially on suggestions for changes of format, accessibility etc. Please fill out a survey here or email us at cambridgegooddeath@gmail.com. We especially love to collect new recommendations of literature, poetry, lyrics, and artworks!