Sunday, January 30, 2011

It Was a Dream by Lucille Clifton

The first thing I noticed about this poem was that the actual poem is a continuation of the title. Clifton makes this more prominent by keeping the first letter of the first line lower case, but even without that it would be very noticeable, and I feel like the poem just doesn't flow unless you read it correctly. I also noticed the repetition Clifton used to emphasize a few of her ideas: she repeated the phrase-opening word "and" for three of the last lines, and she ends her poem with the line "This. This. This." Personally, I like to use both repetition and parallelism as techniques in my writing because I feel like they make more of an impact on the reader, so I really like the fact that Clifton used them.

As for the content of this poem, I thought that Clifton's idea was one that many of us have to face occasionally. My interpretation was that, in her dream, Clifton was confronted by her "greater self," livid and raging at her about what she had done with her life. Clifton asked herself what else she could have done, and the response was more screaming and generally insane behavior. The last line of "This. This. This." sounded to me like Clifton's "greater self" was screaming at her the things she could have done, in response to the question.

I thought it was interesting how Clifton referred to her dream self as her "greater self," because I thought it implied that she subconsciously agreed that she had made some sort of mistake and ended up in the wrong place in life. I also thought the phrase, "accusing me of my life," was intriguing: I never actually thought of this kind of abusive self-criticism as a type of accusation, but it's very true if you think about it. She is not necessarily accusing herself of being alive, although she would obviously be guilty of that, but of making the wrong choices during her life. I am sure we have all been guilty of this at some point or another, and there is really no escaping it. But it is interesting the way that Clifton chose to address it, through the description of a dream. Perhaps it really was a dream she had, but it seems more likely that she meant "dream" as more of a thought which expanded upon itself and turned into a self-argument which led her to visualize herself as a sort of crazy, monstrous terror who could do nothing but berate her.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent observations in your first paragraph. I also like your thoughts on the "greater self" Clifton uses to "talk" to herself. I think sometimes that is my greater self too--the real self is lazy and tired! lol ;)