Henri Michaux

Dreams Like Enigmatic Paintings

Dreams Like Enigmatic Paintings is a work of prose poems by Henri Michaux which were published by Vanguard Editions back in 2018, however I think they were first published in French in 1972.

The book meanders through Michaux’s mind which seemingly came to him after seeing some of René Magritte’s paintings. Michaux also had a history with mescaline during the 1950s which informed his experience with the world, as he recorded these experiences through both text and drawings.

In his foreword from 1964 he states that Magritte’s paintings ‘have acted in some way as “supports to meditation”, generally giving rise to dreams…and confusion’.

‘For it is a question of paths of travel if you like. Having only found so few paths, I regret that there are so many.’

Every read permits a different feeling, one that you don’t think can be replicated. Inner demons were a fascination for Michaux, as maybe you are made to face some of your own as you read this book. I guess the scale of your own mind can often feel isolating.

‘Leaves like faces, great wise faces, without a care in the world, which leave you in peace, which are anonymous.’

Inexplicability can be haunting. Exploring that which is unsaid both opens and closes our understanding of anything. There is no goal, because what you’re looking for has no end.

Informed subconsciously, our experience cements itself to the corners of our mind, inevitably becoming invisible. Anything can seem normal if we want it to; it can be difficult to face that which keeps us up at night.

‘It is mainly due to the banal that the 'everyday' has no choice but to return. Nothing but the banal can support the unusual.’

Reading these poems is like wandering with no beginning and no end, things appear and things leave. What stays with you is unknown and though you may feel uninhabited, complicity can be found in that uncommon look from a passer-by.

‘On the easel, clouds, the same clouds as in the countryside. The same ones, captive, captive of a painting. And the painting itself, captive of a frame. But then, can't everything be 'held' in a frame?’