Rodger Kamenetz will be offering a talk and workshop on poetry and dreams September 15 and 16 at the Community for Integrative Learning in Wilmington DE.

To learn more, visit  here 




The imposition of a particular name and form on to a dream experience, however lightly held or well intended, is still an imposition.

Moses takes his shoes off before he approaches the holy ground of the burning bush. We have to take our shoes off and our robes too and stand there naked before the image in our dreams– so it can be new again. If we put any manufactured shoe on the naked foot we are no longer touching the bare ground of the experience.

A burning bush is a paradigm for the paradoxical quality of the encountered Image and the encountered Presence (Imago). Images are the medicine and Presences are the healers– the physicians– in our dreams.

As W.H. Auden wrote,  “The sacred being cannot be anticipated, it can only be encountered.”[1] Auden brings a really a deep understanding. It means that no prior name is really sufficient, in the immediacy and newness of the encounter. NO PRIOR NAME…NO PRIOR FORM should be superimposed, no matter what its pedigree.

Every image in life and in our dreams is potentially a burning bush.  The “bush” by the way is a very humble object– it’s not a burning cedar for instance, it’s a little scrubby bush. The burning is the key.

How is it some images that come out of life and enter into our dreams become transformed? They begin to burn for us and yet miraculously are never consumed. Because the fire is not physical but is of deep feeling.

Such images– if we can strip away any preconception and encounter them barefoot, have a potency to change and heal.

I’ll speak from my own experience.  I saw in a dream a boy holding a torn branch.  When I contemplated the branch it began to burn in my consciousness. It was just a torn off branch, but it began to burn when I realized the boy was holding my own brokenness, my own torn off feeling, my isolation and pain…

We must learn to contemplate images and presences as they are, before nama rupa, before any name or form gets imposed. (And again that is almost impossible…I recognize)

I believe like Basho the great Japanese haiku master who says, if you want to write about the bamboo you must become the bamboo.  In that moment the bamboo loses its old name, I would add– it becomes a pure experience of an image without words.. before words.  We must see the presences in our dreams  without a fixed theology or prior thought system.

In the encounter with the image, there are no words that we bring. But we may hear a voice coming out of the burning…

We can come to the experience of the burning without any words, the words we borrow from religion or ideology are just an imposition of someone else’s imagination.  I believe we have the right to imagine ourselves into the beginning.

So I have to come to my own “beginning” in my experience and not depend on the authority of any priest’s or sage’s language or experience, I have to begin again and again barefoot, with my old comfortable sandals removed. Otherwise I am not truly walking the holy ground. I am missing the sacred encounter.

[1] p. 55 “Making, Knowing, Judging” in W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand.

Next weekend, September 15 and 16 Rodger will be speaking and doing a workshop on Dreams & The Poetic Imagination at the Center for Integrative Learning in Wilmington DE.