Poetic Labyrinth of Desire-or-The Dream of Gwendolyn MacEwen

Obsessive Love -or- Packed in Like Sardines

In "Labyrinth of Desire" Rosemary Sullivan discusses a dream that the Canadian poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen reported to her. Sullivan is interested in the nature of "obsessive love". For Sullivan; "Obsessive love sends us deep inside the carverns of our own psyches, where, if we have the stamina, we will discover how rich, how resonant, how numinous we are." Here is MacEwen's dream, found in chapter 15:"Dreams";
"That night she dreamed she was walking in labyrinths, entering caves, finding hidden crypts. In the dream Varian offered her a sardine can filled with penises and asked her to choose one. She awoke suddenly. All her boundaries were giving way."

Love and Personal Boundaries -or- Poetic Labyrinth of Solitude

Sullivan's writing provides a number of ancedotal associations of MacEwen's memory to provide some background to understand the meaning to the dream. Sullivan tells the reader that Gwendolyn went with Varion on a trip to the Mexican town of Guanajunato. The town is descibed as; "It was built like a labyrinth over the honeycomb of ancient tunnels." Varian reportedly was a painter who showed Gwendolyn his studio, "the walls were covered with his paintings. They all had the same title: The Itinerary of the Naked I." Gwendolyn saw in the paintings a "mirror of her own loneliness."

During the World War II, Varian's father was a secretary to Varian Fry who helped many to escape the Nazis, to some he became known as the American "Schindler". One of the stories that his father told Varian, was; "the was even a psychopathic fisherman, a guy who was supposed to be rescuing them. My father had bribed him to take them to Casablanca, but luckily their money was stolen and they missed the boat. It turned out that fourteen of his passengers were buried in his back yard." 
Varian's father had met his mother during the War, "a young Mexican artist stranded in France". Varian's mother "was disappointed with America." 'It was the war that did it,' Varian said; "They could never recover that happiness." When he (Varian) was born, he was given Fry's first name "Varian". As I have stated in other interpretations, wars change people. The can of sardines can be perhaps associated to the "psychopathic fisherman" and Varian's paintings "The Itinerary of the Naked I". Gwendolyn felt as if the paintings were a poetic "mirror of her own loneliness". This search to commune with another is discussed by the Mexican Octavio Paz in "The Labyrinth of Solitude". Gwendolyn's feeling of identification with Varian's labyrinthine feelings of loneliness had the effect of; "All her boundaries were giving way." In other words, by identifying with his loneliness, she was opening her personal space to Varian, hoping for a narcissistic fusion in terms of love as "mirroring" took place. 
The answer for Sullivan's questions about "obsessive love", is simple. Our need to transcend our poetic feelings of loneliness in search of the numinous.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.