Poem of the Week | August 27, 2012

This week we have a new poem from Ann Keniston. Keniston’s first poetry collection, The Caution of Human Gestures, was published in 2005 by David Robert Books. She is completing a new full-length manuscript entitled “Lament/Praise”; poems from this manuscript have appeared or are forthcoming in Antioch Review, Interim, New Ohio Review, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. A coedited anthology, The New American Poetry of Engagement: A 21st-Century Anthology, is forthcoming later this year from McFarland. She is also a scholar of contemporary poetry and associate professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband and two sons.

Author’s Statement”

I began “Dreamed Beloved” with that phrase and the idea of speaking directly to the dreamed apparition of the dead. The poem explores the paradox of this speech and of ghostliness more generally. The dreamed beloved seems autonomous, possessing powers over the dreamer and impelling her to act in certain ways. But the nature of dreams also reveals a different power relationship, since the dreamer is the one who conjures up (and in this case both reanimates and commands) the one dreamed of. The use of the imperative allowed me to explore these issues about power and authority. As the end of the poem reveals, the imperative can’t unmake death or the fact of bereavement; the imperative (like the poem) instead performs a wish for the dead to return. It’s certainly not a coincidence that I wrote the poem while working on a scholarly study of ghostliness in contemporary poetry. I’ve also written about apostrophe, especially to the dead, although I have (until now) avoided using it in my poems.

Dreamed Beloved: you

cast out your voice, repeat
your dying with new flourishes. By now


you’re expert at coming back.
Or seem to be
though it’s I who summoned you
so you’d refuse to grant me access
to your actual self. I made you my ventriloquist, my conduit
to what’s beyond the grave to help me hold


what in life I never held you with.
(I was polite,
stand-offish just before you left me here
because I thought you wanted that.)


And now: it’s time to call my bluff, release us both.
I know you can because
you always saw me
as I am, or was until you died.