Poet Mathias Svalina Delivers Dreams on Demand
Writer Mathias Svalina is delivering dreams to Denver this summer.
Courtesy Mathias Svalina
This summer you may be too swamped to remember your subconscious. If you don't have time to dream, or if you can't recall them, you can enroll in a service that will bring typed up dreams to your doorstep courtesy of local poet and bike messenger Mathias Svalina, creator of the Dream Delivery Service. In the past, Svalina has taught creative writing at Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of Colorado in Boulder. But for the next year, he's put teaching on pause to focus on the Dream Delivery Service. "I had been teaching writing of one kind or another — poetry, fiction, composition — since 2000. I love teaching. I love being able to hear a student's voice and try to help them with it. I thought I wanted to be a professor, but I became less and less of a fan of universities. So part of doing the Dream Delivery Service is trying to create my own sort of job as a writer, one that didn't exist until I invented it," explains Svalina. We spoke with him to learn more about dreams, writing and more.
A selfie of Svalina on his first night of delivering dreams this summer.
Photo courtesy of Mathias Svalina
Westword: What inspired the Dream Delivery Service?
Mathias Svalina: After having published a handful of books of mostly surrealist or absurdist poetry, I wanted to develop a way of connecting to readers differently than through a book, of being able to create a more intimate reading relationship. I wanted this reading relationship to develop over time and as part of a daily routine. Plus, it's funny to me to think of people waking up and finding a poem written just for them on their doorstep every day. I would like that to happen to me! Hopefully subscribers incorporate the dreams into their day, the way they might have a dream in the back of their mind all day.
Maybe this project is also a response to the way the Internet gives so much access to stuff all the time. I wanted to make ephemeral and atomized pieces of writing. I like the idea of creating a text that only a single reader is going to read. No one will ever get the same set of dreams that another subscriber gets. And at the end of the delivery month, I delete the thousand-plus dreams that I write, so they only exist as the little pieces of paper the subscribers receive. Also, since the only thing I'm really good at is poetry, I wanted to figure out a way to pay some bills with poetry, which is not the most lucrative of arts.
Portrait of the artist as a young man.
Courtesy Mathias Svalina
Are the poems based on real dreams you've had?
Nope. I barely ever remember my dreams, actually. And when I do, they're usually simplistic anxiety dreams, like realizing that I'm not wearing pants in public or forgetting to study for a test — boring shit like that. I do sometimes use some elements of dreams that friends tell me. But I try to warn them that if they tell me about their dreams when I'm doing deliveries, I'm going to steal them. With over forty subscribers a month and trying to write forty dream-poems a day, I'm usually looking for anything inspiring or interesting to use in the writing process. I'm looking through art books and taking notes whenever I'm not writing to have more images and scenarios at hand to play with when I'm writing. And I use a lot of things my friends say, so watch out if you talk to me: Anything weird you tell me might end up in someone else's dream!
What do you love about writing?
The surreal, the absurd, the strange feels totally natural to me. Things like bills, stopping at stop signs, and making plans to meet specific people at a specific location, that stuff is bewildering. When I'm writing, I'm able to be the oddity I truly feel inside. Writing is a great escape and exploration. Through writing, I'm able to see myself and the world I experience from multiple perspectives, with almost limitless potential. Part of what makes me happy about doing Dream Delivery Service is that I write eight to ten hours a day. Actually, Dream Delivery Service allows me to do my three favorite things: write all day; bike around town in the middle of the night, when the streets are empty; and be weird without consequence.
How does surrealism play a role in the Dream Delivery Service?
It's pretty fundamental to it. Since surrealism is essentially the taking seriously of dream-logic, it governs the way I think of the narrative of each dream. To me, though, dreams are more interesting than surrealism because they're embodied and personal. They process or assist the individual's way of making sense of the world. On the other hand, surrealism often has a kind of academic or intellectualized air to it.
An example of a Mathias Svalina dream poem.
Photo courtesy of Mathias Svalina
When did this project begin? When does it end?
I first did the Dream Delivery Service during the summer of 2014, and I did it again last summer. I deliver every day during the month, writing all day and then biking around town at 3 a.m. to drop off dreams on people's front porches. I'll be delivering dreams to subscribers in Denver for all of June and all of August.
Where do you see the future of Dream Delivery Service going?
This fall I'll start doing Dream Delivery Service in other cities. I'll do a month each in Richmond, Tucson, Marfa, New Orleans and Chicago. And as much as I can, I want to bike between the cities as I'm traveling. I'm going to spend the next year working in dreams and then see what comes out of that.
You can sign up for the Dream Delivery Service here for the remainder of June or all of August.
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