The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson welcomed poet Mathias Svalina Monday night and will be hosting him through the month of November. Tucson is Svalina’s second stop as he takes his 2-year-old Dream Delivery Service around the U.S.
The poet refers to himself as a “servant of dreams.” He currently lives off of the monthly subscriptions of people in the cities that his service tours. His first city was Richmond, Virginia, and now he will deliver to around 40 people in Tucson.
What Svalina delivers labeled as dreams are passages between 100 and 300 words, written in the second person, meant to be read by the recipient first thing in the morning. This means he sets off at 3 a.m. every day to make deliveries on bike for those within a 4-mile radius and the rest by mail.
“There’s a formulaic way we tell our dreams, and that’s what I stick with,” Svalina said. “The most important part to me is the all-accepting logic of dreams. They’re illogical, yet obviously true when we’re in them.”
The idea to be a dream delivery man started as a joke with a friend, Svalina said, but joking turned into wondering if maybe this could be something worth doing during a summer he spent in Denver. It caught on, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver ran the project the next summer.
Svalina claims his own dreams are boring, commonplace anxiety dreams, like going in public without pants or not preparing to teach a class. When he meets people now, they often share their dreams with him and he re-purposes and swaps people’s dreams around.
For the most part, it is all original content from the weirdness of his own imagination.
Writing dreams is different, Svalina said, in that he has a different, ongoing relationship with the reader, unlike a novel or article. He has to switch up the dreams like how we would normally experience our dreams— sometimes boring, sometimes sentimental, sometimes funny, but mostly just bewildering.
Svalina even has a separate nightmare delivery service, which also began as a joke on his site but ended up with subscribers.Though he said writing to scare is more difficult, especially in such short passages, for $3.75 more, he has been taking these subscriptions as well.
“I’m looking forward to the experience in different cities,” Svalina said. “Different communities and different landscapes allow me to gather new things every day, so I don’t bore people by just writing what I already know.”
Svalina said the only thing he ever wanted to do was be a writer and he has always been drawn to subject matter which resists explanation. Along with being the co-editor of the small press, Octopus Books, he has five books published and another on the way.
He also has a collection of examples of dreams available for purchase.
Since everyone gets the same dream on Sundays, Svalina does have a bit of a break on Saturdays. Besides that, he finishes delivering at dawn and spends the rest of his days writing the next day’s dreams—the type of content he said he would be writing anyway. The Dream Delivery Service is a bringing together of all things that make Svalina happiest.
“I’m the type of person that feels really liberated and happy when I’m writing,” Svalina said. “I love biking around cities, especially when they’re empty, exploring, writing down all the weird stuff I’m thinking anyway and making a text out of it. I’ve designed it all around the things I enjoy doing most.”
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