The poems of C.K. Williams' A Dream of Mind are tightly focused on the happenings in the mental realm, the mechanisms of thought itself, and the filtering processes of the mind which yield to each person a different lens through which they observe objective reality. This heavy emphasis on metacognitive processes makes reading C.K. Williams' work a layered undertaking. A Dream of Mind forces the reader to consider not only the very limited action that takes place within each poem and the explicit text of the long, cadence-of-thought lines and phrases Williams employs, but also the unspoken yet clearly evoked emotions and neuroses that Williams' narrators display.
Williams' poems have a confessional feel, but any autobiographical elements are complicated and muted. Williams' poems demonstrate the similarity of thought patterns and preoccupation among various personas. "The Question" is found in "Some of the Forms of Jealousy," the second section of A Dream of Mind, and its techniques and focus are representative of the methodology Williams pursues in this book. The action of the poem is simple, a woman lies awake in bed next to her lover, wakes him, asks him if he cheated on her, listens to his denial, and he falls back asleep. Yet the uncertainty and self-doubt that plague its narrator, her fear that what he has done is something deeper than physical infidelity, "a renunciation" (21), reveal a person in the midst of an existential crisis that extends far beyond her relationship. The narrator "can't really even say now if she wants to believe him or not" (13), and the titular question seems to be a much deeper, more vital quandary--one that the persona cannot even bring herself to think, let alone vocalize.
In "The Method," the one poem in A Dream of Mind in which Williams appears to be speaking for himself and in which he enunciates the ideology of the book, he claims to "have only the sketchiest notion of how to incorporate this exotic and complicated methodology" (6), but the poems in A Dream of Mind refute this claim. Williams' deft capture of the mind's ebb and flow of thought, dream, and desire offers up a series of immersive experiences in the mind of another--a poetic immersion in thought that is as readable and enjoyable as it is masterful.