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Order up: A poet's 'dream delivery' service comes to Buffalo

Hello, Dream Delivery Service?

I'd like to order one large dream, extra surreal, with a side of light fear.

Throughout May, strange as it may seem, Buffalonians will be able to make a similar order -- though perhaps not quite so specific -- via an unorthodox public poetry project conceived by the poet and artist Mathias Svalina. He will be taking requests from locals to write a month's worth of poems-to-order, and delivering them via bicycle to homes throughout the city. It's all part of a month-long residency sponsored by Just Buffalo Literary Center.

Nightmares cost $3.75 extra. That's both because they're harder to write, Svalina said, "and $3.75 is a funny number."

Svalina, who has been in Buffalo since April 28, has already begun delivering narrative dream-poems to subscribers in the early morning hours.

"I leave them at people's doors before dawn," said Svalina, who is based in Colorado. "My fantasy is that they're just little pink envelopes waiting in people's doors when they wake up."

Svalina, who has published five volumes of poetry, came up with the idea during a period of unemployment in Boulder, Colo. Over a few drinks, he and his friend hatched a plan to deliver dreams via bicycle to a small group of subscribers, thinking it would be a one-time gimmick.

Four years later, after trips through Austin, Marfa, Denver and elsewhere, Svalina is still at it.

The pieces he writes, Svalina said, can't quite be described as poems because they follow a certain form and employ what he called "the rhetoric of dreams."

"I was in my childhood home, but it was also a treehouse, but it was also a fire hydrant. But then the Rock walked in with a seat belt around his head. That kind of storytelling," Svalina said. "Also, dreams are fun. If it was a poem-delivery service, I don't think people would be interested."

As part of  his visit, Svalina will be conducting a series of workshops at Just Buffalo, all of which are listed on the center's website at justbuffalo.org.

"It's just such a unique, fun way of interacting with poetry," said Just Buffalo Education Director Noah Falck, who brought Svalina last year for a reading at Silo City. "I keep going back to this idea that the word poetry often scares people and the way that people interact with poetry. And we as an organization are constantly thinking of ways to let people have their own experience with poetry."

Anyone who wants to sign up for a month of hand-delivered dreams can visit Svalina's website at dreamdeliveryservice.com. Those who live outside a four-mile radius centered in downtown Buffalo will receive their dreams by mail. The rate is $45 for bike delivery and $60 for mail delivery.

Depending on when people sign up, Svalina will backdate dreams so every subscriber will receive 31.

"It's just an exciting way to open up your day," Falck said of Buffalonians finding pink envelopes filled with dream narratives every morning as they open their doors. "It's surreal and it's beautiful."

Email: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

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