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Editors

Recurrent dream, late 1970s, by Gavin Ewart

So I have this recurring dream. My publisher tells me that a new Editor has been put in charge of me and all my works; and I go along to the publisher's office and there, lo and behold!, the Editor turns out to be an Editress, and she is sitting there ready to discuss my new book of poems - which lies in typescript before her.

She is a neat, tidy, well-turned-out lady of fifty or so, with gaudily rimmed spectacles and an owl-like look, blue rinse hair. She explains that the Poetry Readers' Association, of which she is President, will not like a lot of the poems in this book (which she has photostatted and circulated to all her membership). She quotes a letter received from a housewife in Esher, which says: "This book is sheer filth. I tremble to think what would happen if it were left lying about the house for young children to read!". A domesticated Professor has written: "This kind of pornography is anti-life."

The Editress picks up a big blue pencil, about a foot long, and begins - with the utmost savagery - to score great diagonal lines through the poems not approved of. In the end one poem only is left, its innocence established. This is about feeding a horse with lumps of sugar. I leave the office feeling I am lucky not to be arrested.

The other form of the dream (for this is a serial dream and exists in two parts) is exactly as above except that the Editor turns out to be a very serious smartly dressed American. He is called Chuck. "Glad to meet up with you!" and "I"m mighty pleased to have the opportunity to talk with you!" he says, and "Hopefully, now we can get some place!"

His view is that all the poems should be rewritten by him and then re-presented to me for a joint consultation. He starts to go through them: "The end of this one ought to be at the beginning!" and (when he comes to the word "expedient") "The kids'll never understand this!" He explains to me that in Iowa nobody has ever heard of Telemann or Ronald Firbank - nor has he ("Who they?" he asks). He criticises the poems for lack of positive thinking. "These are all negative poems, Gavin!" (we have been on first name terms since the first moment of meeting). In the end no poems are left unscathed; they are all bowdlerised, simplified, run through the cliché-machine. No one line is more than two words long.

As in the first dream, I wake up drowned in sweat, with a feeling of criminal inadequacy.

Ewart first published this prose-poem under the title Dreams in 1980; I found it in The Oxford Book of Dreams (ed. Stephen Brook), 1983. Editors is merely my title of convenience; among the thousands of dreams on the World Dream Bank, Ewart's original title rendered it unfindable. Besides, just to honor the spirit of the dream, I felt obliged as an editor to mar his piece somehow. Hopefully.



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