I heard Paul McCartney being interviewed on the radio about his new album. The interviewer asked him: How did you come up with this title for your song On My Way to Work? Oh, said Paul, once you have a title, you have somewhere to begin. You can start filling in the novel, or adding words and melody to your song. His title, based on the name of one of Damien Hirst’s paintings, flooded him with memories of the time before the Beatles, when he rode a two decker bus to work.
I said to myself: This is what I do. Often I have to give the name of a lecture, exhibit or class I will teach a year or more ahead of time. So I find a title that captures something of the spirit of what I am thinking about, and over the year I develop it. Often I even alarm myself– when I go back to work on filling in the details– and see that I have titled my lecture Casting Out the Seven Devils or What Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis Carroll and a Buddhist Monk Have to Say About Being a Maker of Art. But it fires my imagination, and gives me a place to begin.
This morning I was looking through a poetry book, and came across Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, Dream Drumming. What a great title. I began to wonder what it could mean to drum a dream? It must mean how to bring a dream into the daylight. How do you transport your dream from the night into the on your way to work world?
Let me give you an example. When I was struggling with making the shift from painting to writing, from image to word, I had this dream:
I was wearing a vest. The dream voice said: “it has edges like feathers, catching sound. It is an onomatopoeia vest.” And in my dream, I could see it.
When I awoke, this image stayed with me. But what is an onomatopoeia vest? I went to my dictionary that has the old roots of words:
From the Greek, nomen, onama: name, poiein: to make, to see; poet, poem. Onomatopoeic actually means coiner of names– A name making poet vest!
How did my dream know what I did not? How do I drum this dream, shepherd this vest into the daytime, to help with my writing? So I have set about making this vest with edges like feathers that catch sound. I took a handmade vest I have hanging in my closet. Each day I take red embroidery thread and make small Kantha stitches along the front for feathery softness. I am writing the dream on the satin lining on the inside of the vest. I have small Tibetan bells and telephone wire for receiving sound that I will stitch along the edges. This is dream drumming. There is tangible magic when this door between the worlds opens.