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PoetryFilm Archive: Dream Poem by Dann Casswell

Dream Poem is in the PoetryFilm Archive and has been screened at a number of events. It was first screened at the PoetryFilm event at Tate Britain in April 2006, where Zata curated a programme on the theme of Dream.

Director’s Statement:

“In dreams it’s impossible to read the same thing twice and not have it change on you. In 2006 I made this poem from the perspective of someone who is having a fitful night’s sleep and is worried about their relationship, about loneliness, about death.  The film was once played for the Sultan of Brunei, whose daughter is dyslexic. He actually sent me a sword to say thank you. It was all very strange. I still love it dearly, so I hope you enjoy it as much as the Sultan did. Please don’t send me any more swords.” – Dann Casswell

Biography: Dann Casswell

Since creating Dream Poem in 2006, Dann Casswell has worked full-time for the BBC on local radio, for BBC Children in Need and organising creative BBC Outreach projects in his home town of Bristol. He has had work published in various short story outlets and has had work commissioned by BBC Radio 4. Dann is now a director of where he works running the animation channel, writing, producing and directing beautiful short films and high-end communications for corporate and charity clients.


Dream Poem is a valuable example of a text-on-screen poetry film that could never be experienced in this way as written text on paper, or as spoken text. Even if each of the text iterations were transcribed into a sequence of concrete poems, the reader certainly would be able to read the words, but would not have the same experience as watching this ninety-second film.

The structure of Dream Poem alludes to secondary revision in psychoanalysis. “Secondary revision” is the expression Freud uses for the final stage of dream production: after the dreamer undergoes one or more of the four dreamwork processes (displacement, condesnsation, symbolization, projection), the dreamer then undergoes the secondary processes of the ego in which the more bizarre components of the dream are re-organized in order to present the dream with a comprehensible surface meaning. This surface meaning, once arrived at through secondary revision, is the manifest dream.

Part of the experience of watching Dream Poem is that there is not quite enough time to read the full text on the screen. Halfway through reading the text on the screen, that text changes, sometimes with surreal replacement words, like a glitch in the system. The text changes again, and again. The viewer questions whether what was read moments before was actually there. One questions one’s own perception. The word “Switzerland” changes to “Swindon”, for instance. The experience of scrambling to read all the text on the screen before it disappears is very similar to the act of trying to remember a dream that is slipping away upon waking, and perhaps this is frustrating; however, one of Dream Poem’s strengths is that creates within us an experience.

[Zata Kitowski]


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