Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Metaphor is a mischievous but useful way of connecting two or more things in a relationship they might not have had otherwise. Not only that, metaphor brings us a step or more away from language that is merely descriptive, linear, instructional; closer to the way things appear to us in reality. And how is that accomplished? Metaphor, the marriage broker or eHarmony of language, causes us to consider ideas and concepts in context with the life about it, blurring the world of Reality to the point where it becomes a constant shimmer of ambiguity, mystery, and intrigue.

No wonder we inject metaphor and digression into our stories. If they were meant to be pure reportage, metaphor and digression would be the first two things the metaphorical editor with the metaphorical green eye shade would strike out of the copy, and the third ambiguity would be the true nature of the human being which is at least a duality. No, not the duality of God and Man, rather the duality in which each of us is also its double or reverse, the one who wants for a thing to be so that he or she appears to dither but is instead measuring the potential outcome against the ideal goal.

There is an entire dimension of metaphor in the waking life of Reality and in the dream life of reality, but you have had such awareness in you made suspect by years of teachers, jobs, and instruction books that warn you off, holding forth the simple clarity of the declarative sentence, achieved without unnecessary adjective or adverb as a paradigm to be observed. While it is possible to visualize such a world and write of it, you find yourself not using all the tools in the writer's toolkit, rendering your world dependent on event that proceeds step by ponderous step in the present tense, the present moment, with little or no possibility of association or comparison. You would be apt to get the same meaning from a text each time you reread it. There could be no possibility for ambiguity or metaphor in a text that was essentially recipe instead of evocation.

The anarchists in your life were the teachers who injected poetry into your life, the middle school teacher who sent you scurrying to read the poetry of Gabriella Mistral, and the apologetic man who knew of your eagerness to get on with "real" writing allowed that you might find more to relish in Geoffrey Chaucer than in Ernest Hemingway, but asked you at least to compare and contrast the music in the styles of each. The same mild man once suggested there was more to be had in evocation than description. You were not even one and twenty at the time, no use to talk to you. It was the experience that counted, to the point where you saw yourself as wanting to be the rodeo rider of language, tossing a lariat over it, hog-tieing it, wrenching it to the ground, free of any sense of the interior of your own self or of the reader.

Now it is, of course, different to the point where you can see the process beginning to emerge before you; you are more of a kite flyer than a bull rider, the ambiguity more descriptive than the clarity, the metaphor poking its head above ground like a curious gopher, seeking a midnight snack, waiting for its opportunity.

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