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June 27, 2014

Book Notes - Leah Umansky "Don Dreams and I Dream"

Don Dreams and I Dream

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Leah Umansky's Mad Men-inspired poetry chapbook Don Dreams and I Dream offers rare perspective into both the television show and the poet's interaction with it, and masterfully expands themes of gender politics, identity, and love.

Vol. 1 Brooklyn wrote of the book:

"What I liked about Don Dreams and I Dream was, especially, how Umansky breaks down words and names familiar to the show. 'In My Next Life, I Want to Be an Ad Man' utilizes don and drape as verbs. 'The Times' blends moments from the show into Umansky's memories, evoking the ways that we can disappear into works of art, the lines between our own recollections and the plots we've watched play out slowly blurring."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Leah Umansky's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream:

Don Dreams and I Dream is a Mad Men Inspired poetry collection. I came late to Don, and the rest of Mad Men, because I thought that Don would be very chauvinistic, but what I soon learned was that he wasn't at all. It's very much a show about strong, powerful women, the pursuit of dreams, and the mistakes we all make as human beings. In time, I felt myself slowly fall in love with Don's character, and all of his glory. Soon one playful little poem grew into fifteen poems.

One of my favorite things about Mad Men is the snippet of song that plays at the end of each episode. It's always so poignant and just perfect. It's in that snippet, where I often look at notes I've jotted down during the show. My very first sentence in my notepad turned into the title of the first poem in the book, "In My Next Life, I Want To Be An Ad Man."

Here is my playlist for Don Dreams and I Dream, organized by characters mentioned in the poems. The poems go up to Season 5, but in my next full-length poetry collection, which I'm currently at work on, some poems inspired by season 6 and 7 will be present, including, a poem or two for Sally and Betty.

"Desperado" – The Eagles
I have a special relationship with Don in this book. Well, my persona does. I feel for Don. I get him in the way that Peggy gets him because they sort of mirror each other. This song has always been one of my favorites and it really epitomizes, Don. He needs to let somebody love him. I'd step up to the plate.

Doesn't this just say it all –

"Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate

It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it's too late"

"Shelter" – Ray Lamontagne

In my poem, "Don Discovered America," Megan says, "Don, you're everything I dreamed of and more" and that's true. She loves Don. She wants to love him and she really tries to love him. There's really no give and take there and this song, "Shelter," always breaks my heart, and well, Megan repeatedly has her heart broken by Don. They just can't learn to love each other.

"When all of this around us 'll fall over

I tell you what we're gonna do

Hey you will shelter me, my love,

I will shelter you

If you shelter me too"

"Stupid Girl" – The Rolling Stones
Well, in choosing this song, you can see that I'm not a big fan of Betty, except in that sleep away camp episode, where she has the upper hand, but that poem will be in the next book. I don't like the way she treats Sally, and I just don't think she's a good person. (Though, to be fair, I realize Don has done a number on her).

"Tomorrow Never Knows" - The Beatles
One of my favorite episodes is the one that features Don listening to Revolver for the first time. The episode ends with this song and it makes me think of the night Roger takes LSD and thinks he has all the answers. This one's for you, Roger Sterling.

"She's a Rainbow" – Rolling Stones
Joan IS a rainbow, isn't she? She's spectacular and radiating. She's just a powerful spectrum of color and force!

"Only the Lonely" – Roy Orbison
"Maybe tomorrow

A new romance

No more sorrow
ut that's the chance

You gotta take

If your lonely heart breaks"

I love Peggy. I wanted to give her an empowering song, because she is a force of nature. She's a go-getter and she's Don's protégée. I love her relationship with Don and I'm glad to see it resurface in season 7. With that said, she's also very sad and lonely, like he is. So this song is for Peggy, to empower her. All of us women have to take risks in life, behind that sorry is chance and opportunity. Peggy's learning that each day.

"Don't Look Back in Anger" – Oasis
I know. Sally isn't in this book, but she'll be in the next, and I want her to hold on to some of her innocence. She's a star; naturally, she's her father's daughter. I love her relationship with Don. It's been a hard poem for me to write, and I'm still working on it. Father/daughter relationships can be rough – look at Roger and his daughter – so this is a sort of prayer for Sally to try to see past the anger. Plus, it's an Oasis song with her name in it. (Lucky girl.)

For Don & Leah in "Don Dreams and I Dream"
"You and Me" - Penny & The Quarters (from the Blue Valentine soundtrack)
The title poem needs a song. It's an almost love poem. This song resonated with me ever since I saw Blue Valentine and downloaded the soundtrack. It's a very tender and loving song. My persona is having a heart to heart with Don. They both want so much., but at least they have each other.

"you and me
you and me
nobody baby but you and me."

Leah Umansky and Don Dreams and I Dream links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book (at Pop Candy)

Vol. 1 Brooklyn review

Coldfront Mag interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Domestic Uncertainties
The Nervous Breakdown self-interview by the author
Pop Candy interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

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