The Poetry Project

“I don‘t want to go to Heaven; I want to go where Keith goes”

Ben Lerner

I write down every dream I have featuring a Waldrop. Keith in particular has shown up in my dreams consistently, frequently, since I met him twenty-seven years ago. And I’ve asked around and it’s apparently a pretty common thing, having Keith appear in a dream. I take some comfort in the fact that so many of us will continue to see him there.

Here are a few of my dreams in which Keith has appeared. Somehow I think Keith would like my sharing a few of these dreams without interpretation more than he’d like my going on about his brilliance and importance—which anyway I’ve done (and will do) elsewhere.


I dreamt I was trying to convince Keith to watch the footage of the towers collapsing on September 11th—it was soon after I’d given (in real life) the Waldrops my old television since I was moving out of Providence—and he absolutely would not. In the dream I said to him “I have no idea why I’m doing this” and he said “I wouldn’t worry about it.”


I dreamt that Burning Deck wanted to start an imprint devoted to the poetry of Freemasons and Keith had me over for tea to ask me if I was interested in helping out and I said I didn’t understand what he was talking about and that was the entire dream.


I had one dream in which Keith asks me to show one of his brothers, Charles, around New York—in the dream the brother looks kind of like Jonathan Winters—and what Charles really wants to do is go to the 2nd avenue deli and order the tongue plate. But within the mysterious logic of the dream I know that Keith would want me to prevent this from happening. That really the whole point of my friendship with the Waldrops—certainly the reason they asked me to be their literary executor—is to prevent Charles from ordering the tongue plate at the 2nd avenue deli.


Last summer when I was in Lisbon I dreamt that Keith had curated a show at the Marionette Museum and he gave some opening remarks explaining that it was a common misconception that marionettes were controlled from above by wires or strings. “Most marionettes,” he said, “like most people, are manipulated from below.”


I have had more than one dream that I was eating with Keith at an Indian restaurant on Thayer Street in Providence where we did in fact eat a few times. In one of the dreams I am an undergraduate trying to impress Keith by saying something about Olson’s “Projective Verse.” When I finish my little speech Keith is quiet for a moment and then says: “It’s always seemed to me that lines of poetry are broken less by the way a poet breathes than by the way a poet blinks his eyes.”


I’ve had more than one dream in which I saw Keith in passing, as if en route to somebody else’s dream.


The Indian restaurant, which I assume is gone, was on the second floor. We were seated by the window. In one dream there is a commotion on the street and I look down to see that a horse drawn carriage has been involved in an accident. There are cries from the street, confusion in the restaurant. Only Keith remains calm. This dream has a clear source in his poem “71 Elmgrove Avenue.”

Here, and in St. Petersburg, one

dreams of being run over by

horses in the street. St.

Petersburg, Russia, that is, at the

turn of the century. Since the Revolution,

they are more and more (horses, I

mean) a thing of the past - or of

westerns. Which brings me

to Italy, where a torrent of traffic

rushes, honking, over

the Roman Empire. But here,

and through a desert, anytime, the Nile flows

like a dream.


I’m staying in the attic on Elmgrove Avenue. I wake up early and go downstairs to the dining room and find the table is covered in birds’ nests. There are some delicate metal instruments on the table and a little pile of fragments of colorful plastic, tinfoil, string, etc., which I intuit have been carefully extracted from the nests. I realize that these are the secret sources of his collages. For some reason I respond to this revelation by returning to the attic and going back to sleep. At which point I wake up in reality.


“I wake, unsure where I am, I and my surroundings vague, the fierce sense of reality having disappeared with the dream.” – from The Silhouette of the Bridge.

#273 – Summer 2023