Last night I had a vivid dream that my dog was walking on water- twice she crossed an expanse without sinking, without even getting her paws wet. She sleeps in a basket in the corner of my room. People sharing a bed, a bedroom, or even a house often have mingled dreams so perhaps this dream was really hers. Maybe Jenny Alexander might solicit thoughts on this on her excellent blog Writing in the House of Dreams. I can ask Poppy what she dreamed last night but unfortunately won’t understand the answer.
I think I know though where the image came from, in its round-about way. In the approach to Easter, we’re reminded how Herod taunted Jesus, dressing him in royal robes and asking him to perform a miracle. It’s described in Luke of course, but the refrain going round my head is, ‘Prove to me that you’re no fool / Walk across my swimming pool’ in the witty Herod’s song in the Andrew Lloyd Webber- Tim Rice musical.
So, the dog has proved that ‘she’s no fool’ but the power of the dream for me personally is the blamelessness of animals and how they are ‘crucified’ directly and indirectly all around us. I thought of writing the ‘goodness’ of animals and checked myself for the anthropomorphic quality of that word.
Lots of thoughts are coming together in an as-yet not formulated way.
I was moved and intrigued by the film of The Life of Pi with its rich metaphorical content. Jean-Christophe Castelli, Associate Producer on the film, spoke at the uni last Sunday about the creation of the special effects. Most of the action was filmed in a giant wave tank (like the water in my dream) with ‘ocean’ and ‘sky’ superimposed later. The actor playing Pi never came into contact with any tiger. Richard Parker was composed from footage of 4 real tigers, lots of CGI and various models, including several blue ‘stuffies’ for the blue screen filming technique. Yann Martel apparently was scrupulous in not wanting any anthropomorphising of the tiger and was uneasy about the scene where the tiger lays his head in Pi’s lap when the film did become for a moment, sentimental. A tiger expert apparently thought it would be plausible as at that stage both of them are dying of starvation.
And I have been reading the rich poetry of Katherine Pierpoint with its allusions and direct descriptions of animals, which are vivid and moving without sentimentality. Her poem Buffalo Calf is here. Another poet whose ‘animal’ poems I hugely admire is Pascale Petit, especially the unflinching The Zoo Father. Both of these poets access something shamanic. Deryn Rees-Jones’ collection Burying the Wren has a sequence in which, inspired by paintings by Paula Rego, she writes as Dog-Woman, melding the poem’s speaker with the body, mind and soul of a dog. Her reading from this at the TS Eliot prize in January, had me holding my breath.
A fascinating piece in the Los Angeles Review of books describes how Deryn Rees-Jones invokes what Lorca called the ‘duende’, extending notions of the bodily self, what it means to be animal, human, alive or dead. All relevant, perhaps as I set out for the woods with my small dog on this freezing cold Good Friday.