Though insomnia is painful to me…
…I thoroughly enjoyed reading the poetry anthology Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems, edited by Lisa Russ Spaar.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that so many poets have written about insomnia. Poetry is a way of dreaming, so instead of sleeping and dreaming, these poets stay awake and dream through their poems.
A number of these poets actually praise insomnia—by remaining awake, they more fully appreciate how night alters reality.
Well, time does move differently at night. Sound moves differently. The world has a different feel. Conscious thought blends with unconscious perception.
It’s enough to make me want to stay up through the wee hours. However, I’m that most boring of specimens: the morning person. My powers of creativity decrease as the night progresses.
The poets in Acquainted with the Night come from all cultures, from all eras, beginning with the 7th century B.C.E…
They include Walt Whitman:
I dream in my dream all the dreams of the
And I become the other dreamers.
Oh, stars, and dreams, and gentle night;
Oh, night and stars return!
And hide me from the hostile light,
That does not warm, but burn…
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.
…the 16th century Indian poet Mirabai (trans. by Andrew Schelling):
On my couch
the embroidered flowers
pierce me like thistles,
I toss through the night.
The frozen ground of these perfect sheets
Is a skillet to me.
…and Rita Dove:
Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue.
To these poets I say: I know what you mean.
© 2011, Michael R. Patton
my sky rope poetry