The Dream World
McClelland & Stewart, 2008
Alison Pick’s first collection of poems, Question & Answer, solidified its author as one of the leading new voices in Canadian poetry. She has been the recipient of a number of awards including the 2002 Bronwen Wallace Award for poetry, a National Magazine Award, a CBC Literary Award. She was also finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award and the E. J. Pratt Poetry Award. Her new collection is no less impressive in its scope of sensitivity and imaginative exploration.
The Dream World, as a title, leads one to consider the realm outside the physical, the world of the mind; more specifically, that of the creative subconscious, that processing of thought and experience we often find in our own dreams. Just as dreams are necessary for our brain in sorting out what we perceive, they are also necessary for writing, a point delivered throughout the book in such poems as “The Hinterland” and “Writing Poetry” to name just two.
Dreams also have a powerful relationship with the real world. A snowshoe “dreams a frozen lake / as the mind dreams thought….” There is a symbiotic relationship here and a sense of one thing’s reliance on another in order to survive, or even exist. We also find the body of a rotting cod fish to be a “skeletal secret / named in sleep….” showing us that dreams have the power of naming, something so vitally important to making a thing real and understood. Dreams, then, are capable of helping us interpret both the real and imaginary worlds, so dependent on each other, thus creating a bridge from one to the other.
In her exploration of the real and imagined, Pick never loses sight of how these two realms affect us. The writer processes these experiences and shares them with others, almost working as a pontifex, or bridge-builder to the rest of us. There is ample reflection on this process, how language can be shaped and molded to best affect this task:
the house of language, one round window lit — it’s time to turn
your back on home. Time to begin the long translation.
The Dream World is a collection that shows us our surroundings, crisp and clear, takes emotion and lays it bare, prepped for dissection. For anyone interested in Canadian poets and poetry, or this country’s vast and often wild landscape, this is a must read.