Home > Mutating the Signature > When Dreams Swim With Cities of Men

When Dreams Swim With Cities of Men

March 25, 2009

Pipe dreams, they’re called, leading to nowhere,
steps off a parapet, a leap into the chasm,
that trill in the chest
that pause before one silent lift.
Rushing temples burn a heart,
rush of a city, wind against skin,
a place you had forgotten until now.

Pressed against invisible threads the clouds hiss,
don’t go too high. Scents of pine and laurel rise
from humus beds, sending soft, beguiling
messages of comfort —
an urge to burrow competes
with a cirrus-streaked bowl of sky.
Moisture glistens against panes,
scratching branches etch gaunt wraiths of the past.
They coax you down from the stratosphere
to ring the sentries, shatter glass,
wrestle slights, travel
into a channel riddled with crevices,
a game of blind man’s bluff into depths
charted or unknown.

A contest that wills you to expose roots
lost under melted glaciers,
entwined in the hulls of shipwrecks
where liquid dreams turn on a dime.

Relish worlds deep and salty, blur the line
between breathing underwater and taking flight.

by Deb Scott and Christine Swint

Process Notes

We started this work with a desire to create and collaborate together, but no clear idea of where and how exactly to start. Our intent was always to have fun, and to not worry about the finished project. As long as we were poeming and creating, we didn’t care (too much) what the finished product looked and sounded like. Deb was interested in learning about the video pieces Christine had been doing and that seemed a good jumping-off point. Christine edited some film clips she had and Deb free-wrote for five minutes in response to the images, not knowing what Christine had in mind.

Deb took the free-write, developed a first line and Christine followed. Alternate lines created a 16-line poem, of approximately 16 beats per line, initially broken into 2 stanzas.

Christine took the first revision (with Deb’s heartfelt gratitude) and broke the lines, reshaping the poem into what is presented today. A few minor word changes were made here and there but the language of the poem is nearly identical to where it started from.

We both agreed that one part of the video didn’t fit the poem and so it was cut (with a promise from Christine that it will reappear some time in the future as part of a different work). Deb sent Christine a link to her Flickr page with a number of sky images that Christine could work in if they fit. Then the hardest part (as far as Deb was concerned): did the read poem match the length of the video? Deb recorded the poem in 2 parts and Christine mixed the recording, the images and added background music. (Deb is going to learn how to do this too, she swears.)

Christine and Deb communicated via email and Google documents. They’ve never spoken or met (and both look forward to doing so some time. Maybe AWP 2010).

Watch the completed video here. –Eds.

  1. March 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    You guys write so well together, this is a fab collab. And the last six lines……whew.

  2. March 25, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Such wonderful images. I felt the hair lift on my head, wanting to follow your words into the hissing clouds and rushing temples.

  3. March 26, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Just exquisite, all of it. One of the very strongest collaborations so far. But…”poeming?” Ummm, please. No.

  4. Michelle
    March 26, 2009 at 11:26 am

    This is absolutely amazing, Deb and Christine.

  5. Jenny Chu
    March 27, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I like. Very much.

  6. April 8, 2009 at 10:26 am

    The use of the imagery as part of the creative process is brilliant. I can see how that would have a cohesive effect to what otherwise might be two completely divergent directions.

    These words stood out:

    Scents of pine and laurel rise
    from humus beds, sending soft, beguiling
    messages of comfort —
    an urge to burrow competes
    with a cirrus-streaked bowl of sky.

    Maybe it’s the time of year, the transition between winter and summer. There is an earthy quality to this time.

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