Writer in Residence

Failed Dreams

By Jennifer LoveGrove

In my new poetry book Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes, there’s a series of poems called “Dream Specimens,” based on actual dreams that I’ve had over the years. I had some fun with these poems, including playing with dream interpretation analyses and linguistic experimentation.  

I’d been keeping a dream log, and quickly discovered that the more I wrote about my dreams each morning, the more I was able to remember them. Only a few dreams made it into poems that made it into the book, but I have many, many pages of short narratives and fragments of imagery from various dreams and nightmares.

Many were disturbingly violent or bizarrely sexual, so I’ll spare you those, but here are a few of the less graphic or slightly lighter ones that didn’t make it into my book. That’s not to say I won’t use them in some capacity in the future, but for now, here’s a sampling of interesting dreams that didn't quite make it into poems:

August, 2016
I’m in some sort of wartime environment, with an unidentified friend. There’s an implication that perhaps I’m not taking our circumstances as seriously as I should. The friend is unwell and at a checkpoint I disclose that my friend is injured because I think that that will garner us better, more humane treatment. Instead, the soldier takes out his rifle and kills my friend.

April, 2016
I have to sneak into a potato chip factory that has very high security for some reason. In this case, “sneaking” means dressing up in a leopard print onesie and standing in line with dozens of other people, also wearing identical leopard print onesies. The character of Daryl from The Office is the security guard at the front of the line and he waves me in without hesitation, but then I can’t remember why I had to sneak into the chip factory in the first place.

March, 2016
I’m in an underground room with dirt walls, and each wall has a white ceramic door. After I open one of the doors, there’s another white ceramic door, then another, then another, and so on. One of the doors supposedly leads to a different room, but I can’t find it, and just keep opening door after door, until I realize I’m trapped in a dirt cell. There’s barely enough room to stand, and I’m surrounded on four sides by doors that lead only to other identical white ceramic doors.

January, 2015
I’m in a field in the town I grew up in, Dunnville, in a car that won’t start. Suddenly a giant kangaroo bounds out of the trees on the other side of the field. The kangaroo is scruffy, with patchy brown fur and a white head. It hops its huge strides across field then turns and charges toward me in the small car.

October, 2014
I’m with a female friend, unknown to me in real life, and we’re watching television together. We’re both susceptible to supernatural experiences, but she can control her abilities much better than me. She’s more experienced and is able to ensure that her powers don’t disrupt her day to day life. On the television, it’s snowing and I am deeply absorbed in the scene, then suddenly it’s snowing in the room. It’s my fault, and I’m embarrassed and apologize profusely. 

Later, we’re in her barn taking care of her pigs and doing various chores, and instead of climbing up to the rafters to fix a beam, she just flies up there like it’s no big deal. I return to the house, head back downstairs to the couch we’d been on in the basement, and pee on it. Twice.


Dreams are great material for writing. Keep track of your dreams and nightmares, mine the images, and you might be surprised at what you can use from your hypnagogic state. Or you may just be dismayed at your own subconscious ramblings. Either way, it's rarely dull.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Jennifer LoveGrove's latest book is the poetry collection Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes (BookThug). She is also the author of the Giller Prize–longlisted novel Watch How We Walk, as well as two other poetry collections: I Should Never Have Fired the Sentinel and The Dagger Between Her Teeth. In 2010, LoveGrove was nominated for the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Literature and in 2015, her poetry was shortlisted for the Lit POP Awards. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications across North America. She divides her time between downtown Toronto and rural Ontario.