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237th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 237th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2014 Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge because there are several levels of participation for your comfort level.

For more poetry, check out the stops on the 2013 National Poetry Month Blog Tour and the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.  And think about participating in the 2014 National Poetry Month Blog Tour — signups will begin in March.

Today’s poem is from Nikki Giovanni’s Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (my review):

Allowables (page 109)

I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her

I don't think
I'm allowed

To kill something

Because I am

Frightened

What do you think?

Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni

Source: William Morrow at HarperCollins
Hardcover, 143 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni is a combination of essays, fantastical stories, and poems, but each is steeped in family memory, foodie love, and careful observations about the modern world.  She shares not only her passion for food and cooking with her grandmother and mother, but also the power of that food to bring people together.  Food also becomes a source of power in the book as she tells stories and engages in poetic dialogue with the reader about how fear mixed with hatred can be just as dangerous as cutting pure cocaine with other foul substances.  By the same token, a little fear can be motivational and should be sprinkled in like the spices in our food.

“We are foodies, my family and I.  My grandmother was an extraordinary cook.  Her miniature Parker House rolls have been known to float the roof off a flooded house in hurricane season.”  (page 1)

Through hyperbole, passion, and personal anecdotes, Giovanni coaxes the reader into thinking about larger issues that affect family life, from the political agenda to the curbs on human rights and war.  She urges the reader — gently and forcefully — to chase utopia (whether that’s a beer or an ideal) with all of our passion and drive because if we do not chase it, we become complacent and bored.  Her essays, stories, and poems piggyback off of one another from the discussion of mutual assistance in the Mayflower Compact to the priceless value of loving relationships.

Poets (page 74)

Poets shouldn't commit
Suicide
That would leave the world
To those without imaginations
Or hearts

That would bequeath
To the world
A mangled syntax
And no love
Of champagne

Poets must live
In misery and ecstasy
To sing a song
With the katydids

Poets should be ashamed
To die
Before they kiss
The sun

Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni is a mixture — a hybrid — of the personal and the universal, of poetry and story, and of relationships and society that will force readers to think about their own lives, their great passions, and the world around them.  Giovanni may not be overtly striking the match to spur societal change, but she’s planting the seed and asking us to nurture its growth — even if it is just within us — to germinate our own utopia.

About the Author:

Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943. Although she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, she and her sister returned to Knoxville each summer to visit their grandparents. Nikki graduated with honors in history from her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor.

Visit her Website.

Book 2 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

Mailbox Monday #249

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  December’s host is Rose City Reader.

***Here are the results of the Mailbox Monday poll and what we all can expect in 2014 and beyond.***

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1. Ripper: A Novel by Isabel Allende for review.

The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Yet, while their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda’s father, she’s reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her—Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco’s elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.

While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature, like her father, the SFPD’s Deputy Chief of Homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.

When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, discovering, before the police do, that the deaths may be connected. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother’s disappearance be linked to the serial killer? Now, with her mother’s life on the line, the young detective must solve the most complex mystery she’s ever faced before it’s too late.

2.  The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith Kinghorn for review.

Cecily Chadwick is idling away the long, hot summer of 1911 when a mysterious countess moves into the large, deserted country house on the edge of her sleepy English village. Rumors abound about the countess’s many husbands and lovers, her opulent wealth, and the tragedies that have marked her life. As Cecily gets to know her, she becomes fascinated by the remarkable woman—riveted by her tales of life on the Continent, and of the famous people she once knew. But the countess is clearly troubled by her memories, and by ruinous secrets that haunt her…

Staying with the countess is a successful novelist and dear friend who has been summoned to write the countess’s memoirs. For aspiring writer Cecily, the novelist’s presence only adds to the intrigue of the house. But it is the countess’s grandson, Jack, who draws Cecily further into the tangled web of the countess’s past, and sweeps her into an uncertain future…

3.  Tiny Stories tote.

 

 

4.  Mr. Knightley’s Diary by Amanda Grange from the library sale.

Between managing his estate and visiting his brother in London, Mr. Knightley is both exasperated and amused by his irresistibly beautiful, outrageously mischievous neighbor, Emma Woodhouse, whose misguided attempts at matchmaking are wreaking havoc in the village of Highbury.

But when a handsome newcomer arrives and catches Emma’s attention, Mr. Knightley is shocked by his reaction. Amusement gives way to another emotion entirely-for his unreasonable dislike of the handsome newcomer seems suspiciously like jealousy.

5.  Edmund Bertram’s Diary by Amanda Grange from the library sale.

At ten years of age, Fanny Price came to live with Edmund Bertram and his family at Mansfield Park. Far from the brat Edmund expected, Fanny became his closest confidante and dearest friend.

But when the fashionable Crawford siblings? Henry and Mary?come to town, they captivate the Bertram family. Henry embarks on a scandalous flirtation with Edmund?s sister, who is already betrothed to another, while Edmund is enchanted by Mary?s beauty and wit. But when it appears that Mary is not all she seems to be, Edmund will turn to the one woman who has always been at his side to find the happiness he deserves?Fanny.

6.  Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange from the library sale.

During his shore leave from the Navy, Frederick Wentworth falls in love with the elegant and intelligent Miss Anne Elliot?only to see his hopes of marrying her dashed by her godmother.

Eight years later, Wentworth has realized his ambitions. A wealthy captain, he has pushed his memories of Anne to the furthest recesses of his mind?until he sees her again. And though Anne?s bloom has faded, Wentworth is surprised to find that his regard for her wit and warmth has not.

7.  The Archivist by Martha Cooley from the library sale.

A young woman’s impassioned pursuit of a sealed cache of T. S. Eliot’s letters lies at the heart of this emotionally charged novel — a story of marriage and madness, of faith and desire, of jazz-age New York and Europe in the shadow of the Holocaust. The Archivist was a word-of-mouth bestseller and one of the most jubilantly acclaimed first novels of recent years.

8.  The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar from the library sale.

Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years. A powerful and perceptive literary masterwork, author Thrity Umrigar’s extraordinary novel demonstrates how the lives of the rich and poor are intrinsically connected yet vastly removed from each other, and how the strong bonds of womanhood are eternally opposed by the divisions of class and culture.

9. Bicycles: Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni from the library sale.

With Bicycles, she’s collected poems that serve as a companion to her 1997 Love Poems. An instant classic, that book—romantic, bold, and erotic—expressed notions of love in ways that were delightfully unexpected. In the years that followed, Giovanni experienced losses both public and private: a mother’s passing, a sister’s too, and a massacre on the campus where she teaches. Yet just when it seemed life was spinning out of control, Giovanni rediscovered love—what she calls the antidote. Here romantic love—and all its manifestations, the physical touch, the emotional pull, the hungry heart—is distilled as never before by one of our most talented poets.

10.  The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck from the library sale.

This collection of stunningly beautiful poems encompasses the natural, human, and spiritual realms, and is bound together by the universal themes of time and mortality. With clarity and sureness of craft, Gluck’s poetry questions, explores, and finally celebrates the ordeal of being alive.

 

11. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes from the library sale.

The poems in Birthday Letters are addressed (with just two exceptions) to Plath, and were written over a period of more than twenty-five years, the first a few years after her suicide in 1963. Some are love letters, others haunted recollections and ruminations. In them, Hughes recalls his and Plath’s time together, drawing on the powerful imagery of his work–animal, vegetable, mythological–as well as on Plath’s famous verse.

Countless books have discussed the subject of this intense relationship from a necessary distance, but this volume–at last–offers us Hughes’s own account. Moreover, it is a truly remarkable collection of pems in its own right.

12.  Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith from the library sale.

In Morality for Beautiful Girls, Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency for the concerns of both ladies and others, investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiancé’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.

13.  The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith from the library sale.

Mma Precious Ramotswe is content. Her business is well established with many satisfied customers, and in her mid-thirties (“the finest age to be”) she has a house, two adopted children, a fine fiancé. But, as always, there are troubles. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has not set the date for their marriage. Her able assistant, Mma Makutsi, wants a husband. And worse, a rival detective agency has opened in town—an agency that does not have the gentle approach to business that Mma Ramotswe’s does. But, of course, Precious will manage these things, as she always does, with her uncanny insight and her good heart.

14.  The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith from the library sale.

Still engaged to the estimable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe understands that she should not put too much pressure on him, as he has other concerns, especially a hair-raising request from the ever persuasive Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Besides Mma Ramotswe herself has weighty matters on her mind. She has been approached by a wealthy lady to check up on several suitors. Are these men interested in the lady or just her money? This may be a difficult case, but it’s just the kind of problem Mma Ramotswe likes and she is, as we know, a very intuitive lady.

I did snag some books for gifts for my daughter and some other people, but I won’t post them here, in case they are watching….reading…

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #248

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  November’s host is Rose City Reader.

***Just a note to say that a poll about what the community wants to do about hosting Mailbox Monday’s meme is on the Mailbox Monday blog. Go Vote.***

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  War’s Trophies by Henry Morant from the author for review.

Murder and robbery on a seemingly routine intelligence mission in Vietnam cause a young army officer to exact his own revenge on a band of Viet Cong turncoats and his own senior officer. The lieutenant then settles into the relatively quiet life of a Seattle editor–until the senior officer is released from prison after 20 years and unleashes his own nightmarish game of copycat revenge killings on the editor’s friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, the police suspect the editor is the Seattle serial killer. The two ex-officers wage a deadly cat-and-mouse battle to determine which one will become the war’s last trophy.

2. Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni for review from William Morrow.

The poetry of Nikki Giovanni has spurred movements and inspired songs, turned hearts and informed generations. She’s been hailed as a healer and a national treasure. But if her reputation is writ large upon the national stage, her heart resides in the everyday where family and lovers gather, friends commune, and those no longer with us are remembered.

And at every gathering there is food, food as sustenance, food as aphrodisiac, food as memory. A pot of beans are flavored with her mother’s sighs, this sigh part cardamom, that one the essence of clove; a lover requests a banquet as an affirmation of ongoing passion; an homage is paid to the most time-honored appetizer, soup.

What did you receive?

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni hums with the rhythm of spoken word poetry and the jazz of human experience.  Each poem carries with it an essence that reflects the Black experience from the capture and transportation of slaves and what that should teach us about how to treat people to the lessons we carry with us once our relatives die.  Her poetry is frank and honest, but it pulls no punches to ensure that readers understand that there are deep wrongs that can be learned from as long as we are willing to look at them closely.  It may be difficult to review past transgressions without jumping to defend or shy away from shame, but her poems cause you to meet those challenges head on and to learn from our own follies.

At other times, her verse decries the blind eye that we turn every day to our own situations and histories, wishing that there were a different outcome or social norm.  Giovanni’s poems focus a bit on the Black experience, but in many ways her verse and perspective transcends beyond those parameters to reach out to all of humanity.  From “Possum Crossing” (page 5), “All birds being the living kin of dinosaurs/think themselves invincible and pay no heed/to the rolling wheels while they dine/on an unlucky rabbit//”

Giovanni also takes her readers on a historic journey through the struggle for civil rights and equality in poems dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks and poems about Martin Luther King and more.  Her poems aren’t just about the past, but about contemporary people and events and the strength and conviction they display.  Her poems range from the traditional free verse to the narrative prose-like poems that read like a stream of consciousness.

From “Symphony of the Sphinx” (page 19):

“I have to remember Africa each night as I lay me down to
sleep The patchwork quilt my Great-Grandmother patched
one patch two patches three patches more I learned to count by
those patches I learned my numbers by those patches the ones
that hit and the many thousand gone I learned my patience by
those patches that clove to each other to keep me warm”

Giovanni’s imagery and matter-of-fact tone tells it like it is without pretense, and readers will take a journey with her through her own life experiences.  “Talk to me, Poem . . . I’m all alone . . . Nobody understands what/I’m saying . . . ” from “Shoulders Are for Emergencies Only” (page 15) is a lament that resurfaces, but readers nod in agreement as Giovanni expresses each observation.  “We hear you,” they will say.  There is a patchwork of poetry here that weaves history with the present and struggle with joy to generate the warmth family, friends, and life can bring.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni is sensational and touching.

Books & Interviews With Nikki Giovanni:

This is my 33rd book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

112th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 112th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions, visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

Today’s poem is from Nikki Giovanni‘s Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea collection:

A Robin's Nest in Snow (page 6)

Outside the window of my den
Where I sit usually counting clouds
Or airplanes or chipmunks scurrying by
On a snowy day I still see
The nest through the flurries

Snowflakes are so delicate they melt
     On your tongue
Sit proudly
     on your shoulders
Tangle themselves
     in your braids

Last spring I didn't know
A bird had made a home
In my river birch
There was activity but I thought
It was the crepe myrtle
Only when the tree exhaled
Did the life reveal itself

The snow piled up neatly
Filling the crevice
Hopefully destroying the viruses and bacteria
That can attack the young still blind robins
And I a survivor of lung cancer nestle
Hope in my heart that no harm will remain
When Spring and birds return

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions. Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles. It’s never too late to join the discussion.

Mailbox Monday #137

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is Life in the Thumb.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

From Borders, which is the only local book store in my town and had the best employees who had great recommendations every time I went in; it also was the only store with a good three-to-four shelves of poetry near me and outside the immediate D.C. city:

1.  The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, which I bought for my mom’s birthday (good thing she doesn’t read the blog).

2.  Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, which I bought to complete the Ireland Reading Challenge and because I just missed out on the TLC Book Tour.

4.  Ideal Cities by Erika Meitner; yes, this is just one of the books I snagged from the poetry section.

5.  The Broken Word by Adam Foulds

6.  Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

7.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni, which I picked up because I loved her selection of poems in (Hip Hop Speaks to Children (my review)

8.  Ballistics by Billy Collins

9. Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

10. Don't Bump the Glump! by Shel Silverstein

11. Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

12. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

13. Peter Rabbit's Tale by Beatrix Potter

14. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss; our version says its made with recycled paper.

15. Dr. Seuss's Circus McGurkus 1,2,3! (plush)

From Anna for Wiggles:

16. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet's Book of Opposites

17. Winnie the Pooh All Year Long

18. Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox by Tim Ostermeyer

And books that came in the mail for review:

19. The Tree It Was by Sandra Fuhringer

What did you receive this week?

Interview with Poet Nikki Giovanni

Welcome Nikki Giovanni, a poet and author, to Savvy Verse & Wit. She was gracious enough to take time out of her busy touring schedule for Hip Hop Speaks to Children to answer some questions about her writing process, the book, and poetry. Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending Hip Hop Speaks to Children to me for review, which you can read here.

1. What prompted you to become involved with the Hip Hop Speaks to Children? And do you think poetry is important for children and adults and why?

I became interested a long, long time ago because my son listened to hip hop. I began even then to try to learn where this “new sound” was coming from since I well know everything old is new again, as the expression goes.

2. Poetry and music seem very akin to one another; do you feel that other genres can apply the rhythm of Hip Hop and other styles to generate passion among children, such as a passion for reading?

I think there is an ebb and flow to everything; there is a rhythm to all speech whether spoken or written. The most important sound is always silence. It is the pauses that make up the meaning. I wanted to give some sense of that rhythm to young people as well as a bit of history.

3. Do you believe that writing is an equalizer that can help humanity become more tolerant and collaborative?

Writing is an equalizer only in so far as what is being written is truthful. Written lies promote hatred and we’ve seen a lot of that lately. Writing is only a tool of the truth, and we who believe in a more tolerant world need to keep putting that truth out.

4. Do you see spoken word, performance poetry, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why?

I think all art has its moments and reasons. I don’t see any special reason to rank effectiveness since we all cross over and learn from each genre. (Well said!)

5. Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I am a early morning or late night writer. I am more comfortable when I know I will not be disturbed. I must say that mood has nothing to do with professionalism. All writers study all the time; learning something all the time; looking at things differently all the time. That’s what is important.

6. Can you describe your writing space?

I write in essentially a tight space. It is a small room with lots of books, a CD player, some photos, and my computer. I have a phone in here but it seldom rings. Also my fax and xerox machine. I sit on a rocker.

7.
Do you have any advice for writers/poets just starting out?

The only advice I have is you, the young writer, should always be reading something. A book, a magazine, a newspaper, anything. A writer who is not reading isn’t doing her homework.

Thanks again to Nikki Giovanni for sharing her unique perspective with us.

Also, here are some reminders about the latest Savvy Verse & Wit Contests:
(Deadlines are Nov. 5)

1. Win a copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

2. Win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

3. Win a copy of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe

Hip Hop Speaks to Children Edited by Nikki Giovanni


I received Hip Hop Speaks to Children edited by Nikki Giovanni from Danielle at Sourcebooks, and Giovanni continues to make television and radio experiences about the book.

Poetry often has an internal rhythm like everyday speech does, and Hip Hop has taken that rhythm and modified it to create a modern day form of poetry, which engages younger generations and children by making poetry fun.

This book came with an audio CD, which you can use to read along with the book or skip around in the book to a variety of poems, and the CD also includes separate introductions to various pieces.

The book touts the talents of Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Eloise Greenfield, Maya Angelou, Queen Latifah, Young MC, and many others. The audio CD has poems read aloud, poems set to music, and some poems are sung. When I first started reading this book and listened to the CD at the same time, I was a bit confused because the poems on the CD were not in sequential order with the book. Then I realized that the poems on the CD have headphone designations and track numbers–check out the sample page to the right.

The beats would make any kid want to get up and dance, and I think the idea of incorporating music with the poetry will keep kids interested. It also makes it easier for children to follow along on their own, which makes this book something parents can sit with their children and work alongside them or set those kids off on their own with the book and CD in hand.

The illustrations are modern, abstract, crisp, and impressionistic and closely relate to the subject matter of each poem. Check out the page for Rapper’s Delight, which is a poem/song from the Sugarhill Gang.

The introduction to the poem is read by Nikki Giovanni and helps explain where the inspiration for the poem/song came from. I found that to be the most captivating introduction.

Queen Latifah makes an appearance in the book and on the audio CD as well. One of my favorites from the CD is Dat Dere by Oscar Brown, Jr., which was inspired by is “inquisitive child” asking questions about everything.

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks is read by the poet, which is followed by a live performance with Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana, and Val Gray Ward “hamboning” the poem. I remember the inherent sadness in this poem from middle school, and it still stirs up emotions, particularly hearing it when read aloud.

About Nikki Giovanni: (Picture at Above)

Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Over the past thirty years, her outspokenness, in her writing and in lectures, has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely-read American poets, she prides herself on being “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.” Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others.

Also Reviewed By:
Becky’s Book Reviews
The Friendly Book Nook
Cafe of Dreams