Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

On Poetry, Writing & Metaphor - Dreaming with Stacie

Hello Toads! I hope 2017 is starting off well for you. I'm happy to be writing, reading and sharing poetry here with you this year. :-)

I read an article over at WriterUnboxed.com that has me thinking on the use of metaphor in writing. As a former writing teacher and lifelong poetry reader and writer, this is not something new to me - in fact, in graduate school one could argue that I spent entire semesters discussing it. I don't believe that language can ever really exist separate from images and sounds in our minds - there will always be points of intersection as we read and experience any text. However, what I found in my experiences as reader, writer, teacher - is that the metaphors people use will be specific -- inspiring sometimes to many, and sometimes only to ourselves. 
Why does poetry seem to be the medium that contains the most powerful, the most universal metaphors for human experience? To answer that once again, I had to look back at some of my favorite books on poetry and the insights I took from them.
Do you need to be a student or an "academic" to read these? Absolutely not. You just need a passion for language and experience -- for that which makes us human.
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How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry 
Edward Hirsch

Hirsch makes you conscious of where the readers exists in relation to the poem and how active and involved the reader becomes – how the reader acts on the poem and it in turn acts on them. “Poetry is a soul-making activity, and the reader in part authors that activity by responding to a form of the poem, its way of shaping itself.” (31). He takes an intensely personal route to understanding poetry, saying “read these poems to yourself in the middle of the night” at beginning and conclusion of his text.

Nine Gates: Entering The Mind of Poetry
Jane Hirshfield

Hirshfield explores how you can look at poetry through a series of “gates” or devices that open up the mind of poetry to the reader. She makes one contemplate what is means for poetry to have a mind of its own, much like Hirsch invited the thought of how a poem itself is acting upon a reader. Hirshfield sets out the six energies that exist within poetry – organizing things that I already knew existed in text and understanding them as alive and central to a form or shape – or larger concentration or mode. I was most influenced by her chapter on translation. “In the act of true translation, as opposed to the act of parsing out meaning, there is a moment when all prior knowledge of a poem dissolves, when the words that were are shed as a snake sheds its skin and the words that are take on their own life.” (61). She speaks here about the self and the other in a poem, and how a translator much lose sense of two separate beings and become one. This is not unlike the process students go through when reading and writing poems; they originally approach the text as an “other”, and hopefully teachers are giving them the tools to use to bring that text into something that is understandable and therefore, no longer an other. However, in the case of translation, as Hirshfield says, “the issue is to what extent a new version can mirror the original, to what extent it must find some differing paths toward the same destination.” (65).

More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor
George Lakoff and Mark Turner


“One major mode of poetic thought is to take a conventionalized metaphor and extend it” (67). The image this conjures up in my mind is one of a flexible bending muscle in the brain; by introducing conceptual metaphor in the classroom this is what students are asked to do. The are asked to take unconscious, but well known cultural, conventionalized metaphor that they hear and see and think of daily, and think about it in terms of poetry. By having students build a schema or organization system for a poem in order to understand it through first the images they see, and then the metaphorical associations these images or icons stand for and map to, they will be extending the language from the literal to the poetic, and their minds from the conventional to the abstract.

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Writing Prompt: 

Today I invite you to write a poem based on a specific metaphor. Rather than assigning you one, I'd like for your senses to guide you - take a few moments to sit quietly. Focus on an image, a sound, or a smell around you. Which one draws your attention most? Why? What are the words you think of when you see/hear/smell it? Draw a map of word or picture associations. Choose the metaphor that most inspires you to write your poem. 


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The art of metaphor - Jane Hirshfield (from Ted-Ed)

I hope you've enjoyed this journey in exploring & studying metaphor. Cracking open the books that inspired me as a student & teacher awaken my passion for writing all over again. Sharing that passion with others is worth everything. Thank you for reading, and I do hope you are inspired to participate. Happy Writing! -Stacie


10 comments:

Kerry O'Connor said...

Thanks for providing these titles, Stacie. It is always productive to be informed about the process from new angles.

Magaly Guerrero said...

None can resist dancing (or kicking) with a metaphor...

Thanks for the prompt, Stacie. :-)

Rommy said...

Oh my metaphor was inspired by a steady beat

Margaret said...

I have the first book and am intrigued by the others. I love metaphor... Thanks for the challenge.

Gillena Cox said...

Thanks for the introductions, luv the video all making the prompt more interesting, couldn't have done it better myself

much love...

Jim said...

Thank you, Stacie. I can follow directions but I didn't do so well this time. You wanted a common metaphor, the one I picked is more meaningful to me than to others. But I've been wanting to tell of this for quite a while, this seemed to be time for no more waiting.
..

brudberg said...

Metaphors are my favorite way to write poetry... I will need to write on this when I have time.. alas time is a constraint... I will try to come up with something tonight or during the weekend.

Sanaa Rizvi said...


Hey everyone,

Phew! It took me a long time to come up with something.. I used extended metaphor as means of writing my piece.. (comparing beloved to the Sun) 💜

Sharing "Le Soleil" thank you Stacie for the lovely opportunity 💜


Lots of love,
Sanaa

paulscribbles said...

My first time in the imaginary garden and a wonderful prompt to land with.Thanks to Stacie.

Bekkie Sanchez said...

I'm too late to Link but will keep an eye out for Sunday. Just wanted to say hello! Hope you have a good weekend! In the future I hope to be on time for the prompts. Lol!

Hugs!