Dreams, A Bag of Materials — Master Class with Wayne Koestenbaum

A writing teacher long ago told me, “Don’t write about your dreams.” Because dreams are boring? Abject? Inconsequential? Uncommunicative? The persona non grata of literature? Sidestepping the advice, I’ve written about dreams, nonstop, ever since.

Please bring to class some notes on dreams you’ve had. Or just bring your memories of these dreams, or your willingness to hear other people’s dreams. Also bring a bag (or any variety of container) filled with things you want to talk about, write about, think about, show to other people. Anything can go in the bag. Precious things, negligible things. Things that barely qualify as things—a phrase scrawled on a scrap of paper. In our time together we will talk about our dreams and talk about the contents of our bags, and we will do many short writing experiments (poetry or prose, it makes no difference) based on our bags and our dreams and maybe also on other people’s bags and other people’s dreams. Perhaps, if we have the gumption, we might improvise a talk opera. And we might diverge from dream altogether, to watch the sharp outlines around “dream,” as a concept, disappear.

Credit: Ebru Yildiz

Wayne Koestenbaum

Wayne Koestenbaum—poet, critic, artist, performer—has published nineteen books, including Camp Marmalade, Notes on Glaze, The Pink Trance Notebooks, My 1980s & Other Essays, Hotel Theory, Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films, Andy Warhol, Humiliation, Jackie Under My Skin, and The Queen’s Throat (a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist).  His next book, a collection of essays, Figure It Out, will be published by Soft Skull in May 2020.  He has exhibited his paintings in solo shows at White Columns (New York), 356 Mission (L.A.), and the University of Kentucky Art Museum.  His first piano/vocal record, Lounge Act, was released by Ugly Duckling Presse Records in 2017;  he has given musical performances at The Kitchen, REDCAT, Centre Pompidou, The Walker Art Center, The Artist’s Institute, and the Renaissance Society.  He is a Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and French at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.