Primarily a writing exercise, this dream journal-inspired blog is a quiet introspective sojourn into the process that we traverse in going from private dream to public art. I see our dreaming as an internalized mythmaking. As I philosophize and expressively exhibit dreams, both private and public, I encourage and delight in creative language as a way to practice experiential metaphors through a “public dreaming." Writing Theory: Creative Dream Fiction

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Poppy and the Pride of Death: Interpretations on a Famous War Poem

Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny by Claude Monet
"Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead." [1]

"Another candidate for the psychoactive drug is an opioid derived from the poppy. The cult of the goddess Demeter may have brought the poppy from Crete to Eleusis; it is certain that opium was produced in Crete." [2]


[1] L. Frank Baum, Michael Patrick Hearn, The Annotated Wizard of Oz, p. 173

[2] Karl Kerenyi.Dionysos.Archetypal image of indestructible life.p 24
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields. [John McCrae]
The above poem, written by John McCrae, is one of the important war poems in history. Today, it is read aloud by veterans at remembrance ceremonies with solemn intention. The symbol and metaphor poppy, here depicted, is especially relevant for the topic of war. 

The poppy symbolizes death. "In Flander's Fields the poppies blow" would then mean that in Flander's Fields, the dead sleep in peace. The second line further supports this. The last two lines, "We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flander's Fields" emphasizes the simple metaphor of the poppy as a symbol of eternal rest, however, in this sense, the poem transcends symbolic import and represents the pride of the soldier as immortal, and sleepless in constant struggle. This is a poem to incite emotion for the dead, and where we might once believe they lay in respite from worldly cause, we are wrong. So the poem is a call to action, "Take up your quarrel with the foe". 

Further, it symbolizes how the poppy is a metaphor for the illusory nature of war, as seen from outside the veteran perspective. It uniquely distinguishes the veteran, whether alive or dead, as having an eternal place in the battlegrounds and in the generations of youth to follow. The poppy symbolizes our ignorance as non-military, as we remember the soldiers who fight on. 

And so, in the land of poppies, Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history wages on. Remembrance, in the metaphor of the poppy, can also fog our vision of the dead, and of their eternal struggle for rebirth in the fields where men are laid low. 

Peace author Arthur Clark once said the poppy symbolizes all who die in war, not just the soldiers of one's own nation, but every victim of war, every innocent child, mother, elder, the destroyed lives and communities. The poppy is the drug of pride, and like all drugs, while instilling disillusionment, it reveals truths of the human condition. 
The inborn drug of sleep has yet to bear new visions fruitful and enduring. I travel eastward towards the desolate earth, and find matchless beauty in the serene quiet of petrified earth, the resonance of death lingers like a gentle breeze.  

Westward! (RK)
Son of the Brown Earth (RK)
Hiker's Meadow (RK)
To The Mountaintop! (RK)
The Canyon Calls Me Forth (RK)
An untouched grand awe
Landed finally to rest beside the sickening mildew

Mulch-pressed nude lakes
Praised unto the natural moon

Lowering close over the beached horizon
A thirteenth name

Pleasing those raised on the island to visit their blood
Despite being insane

A malformed genetic waste
Purchasing birth

Towering over the healthy dead, grovelling
Ensnared by the angry temptress who walks entombed in mind

And spiritually blessed beyond our mundane knowledge,
She treasures the feminine life


To put to death philosophy, and cursed forms of common language
Now replaced with magic and divinity

Enough to overact above the spilled heights

Grandiose unity
Frontiersmen who bite at raw flesh and faint under the jeering of native rumblings

In the overcast dusk of Western humanity
Fallen alas to the bitter womb of civilization

And the crass membrane stew of our unalienable forebears
Freaking us out

Into stomachs without mouths
To feed on the juice of the horned phantom

And only lick from inside
The wounds stinging our nameless pride

excerpts from "Untouched Grande Awe"

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