In the early 1960s Indiana created a series of paintings that referenced works of key American literary figures; in The Eighth American Dream the artist references his own poetry. Indiana wrote his first poems as a student at Arsenal Technical High School, although it was while at the University of Edinburgh, where he found the atmosphere more conducive to writing than painting, that he further explored his identity as a poet. There he wrote "August is Memory or Epitaph for Carmen" (1953). Two lines from the poem, “August is Memory Carmen” and “August is Bittersweet,” appear in The Eighth American Dream. The lines are incorporated into the outer ring of two of the quadripartite painting’s circles, and enclose an octagon containing the number eight, a number that he associates with his mother (Carmen), who was born and died in August, the eighth month of the year. Another circle contains the names of the cities of her birth and death, Elizabeth and Columbus. Eight is also a homophone for the past tense of eat, a word that appears in the painting’s bottom circle. Found throughout his work, the word is one Indiana associates with his mother, whose last words were to ask him if he had had anything to eat.