Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We love the surreal imagery in “Dream about a Gigantic, Me-Obsessed Octopus” and how it turns the feared into something longed for at the end. How did you come to the aquatic imagery?

Bryanna Licciardi: I am a crazy dreamer. Have been since I can remember. My dreams fascinate me though, so when they wake me up I like to leave notes for myself before falling back asleep. Because I have insomnia, I take sleep medication (the kind wherein I will do things that I don’t remember), which makes these notes sometimes a bit of a surprise. This poem was inspired by a note I woke up to one morning: giant, women-obsessed octopuses taking over the world. While I never remembered the dream itself, nor writing it, I was so stuck on the strangeness of it that I knew I’d have to make it into a poem someday.

RR: The use of lowercase and lack of punctuation in this poem feels vulnerable to us. Can you talk about that choice in this poem?

BL: It’s funny that you ask because vulnerable is exactly how it felt writing in this style. I am a very narrative, structure-driven writer. My favorite classes in school were linguistics and copyediting for that reason. In fact, more than one poetry professor has pointed out how grammar sometimes controlled my poetic form. The narrator of this poem, though, felt drenched in chaos, in her choice to embrace fear if it meant not being alone. I wanted to lean into that by untethering her from the rules of language.  

RR: We empathize with the longing for touch and connection here and how that overlaps with the relationship with self. How do you approach that kind of intimacy in your writing?

BL: In my experience, intimacy is mostly just the push-and-pull-away of our vulnerability. Running from the connection you crave. The heartbreak that follows when you look around and discover your own loneliness. I try to approach that sense of longingness from a lens of self-deprecation that I think many of us can recognize in ourselves or in those we try to love. Not pitying but in reflecting and forgiving.

RR: We understand you’re a university professor—has that influenced your writing at all and, if so, how?

BL: Honestly, I feel like once I turned eighteen, I just never left the university. With all my continued education and all my jobs being in higher education, how could it not have influenced my writing? I imagine it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’m an introverted person which has its pros and cons: it’s benefited me as a writer because it makes me very observant, but it’s also pained me as a writer because it means I’m a terrible networker. Working with English departments has given me connections to amazing writing communities I wouldn’t have otherwise been confident enough to approach as an outsider. Teaching has also allowed me to observe so many diverse perspectives that keeps me constantly feeling the need to learn more, to continue evolving my heart, and these are feelings I synthesize through writing.

RR: Given the subject of your poem, we’re curious: do you often dream? If so, would you be willing to share one of your most memorable and vivid ones?

BL: Yes, I dream all the time. Vivid dreams that are terrifying and hilarious in their strangeness. I’ll wake up feeling exhausted because they’re that visceral emotionally. I love to write about them because I have such an urge to share them and my husband has asked I stop waking him up to do so.

One recent-ish dream I’m still able to recall is this: I’m walking with a friend down an attractive, suburban street. The sun is shining so it’s day but no one else is around so it’s eerily quiet. There are woods behind the backyards of the houses to our left. As we walk, I notice a herd of puppies galloping out of these woods, towards us. We stop to watch them. I see one of the puppies is quite large and think, “That’s odd.” The herd gets closer. I can now see that the large puppy is not a dog at all, but a man dressed as a dog. Closer now and I can see his eyes are locked with mine. I realize he’s running at me with quiet intensity and become frightened. I grab my friend, telling her we need to run but she doesn’t see him, or doesn’t understand my fear, so we’re not moving. I wake up when he’s just a few feet away from me…


Read “Dream About a Gigantic, Me-Obsessed Octopus” by Bryanna Licciardi in Issue 11.1.