3.14.2005

The Poem As Metaphor

One thing I've noticed among poets is our tendency to describe our relationship to poetry in terms of another art. Both Chase Twichell and Frank Paino consider themselves "frustrated painters" or "painters with words," while someone like Beckian Fritz Goldberg says that she progresses through a poem by how it sounds, by its music. C. D. Wright and Lynn Emanuel both experimented in a wide range of arts before becoming poets, and their poetry, I think, reflects this.

I did something uncharacteristic of myself today. While revising a poem, I added something to it. Typically, I'm a deleter when it comes to revising—I only see what shouldn't be there, and, I noticed, while writing, my main goal is just to get whatever I can onto the page because I know I can always come back later and take away whatever doesn't belong.

I think this makes me a sculptor.

(Confidentially, I took a sculpture class as an undergrad with Maria. One of our assignments was to build an animal from found sticks and twigs. Maria constructed a beautiful turtle. I, lacking similar vision, bundled some large sticks into a faggot (literal definition of that term) and built a nearly-life size giraffe. I articulated one of its legs so that its paw dangled from its L-shaped arm and called it "Limp Wristed Faggot." My sculpture teacher was not amused.)

Sometimes sculptors have to add things back.

I've commented before about how connected I am to cinema, how I perceive there to be a natural relationship between film and poetry, and yes, this does somehow fit. I'm most interested in cinema that is visual—Baz Luhrmann, Pedro Almodóvar, Steven Soderbergh, etc. Cinema is an edited art, which means things are spliced out and spliced in; I have been known to gerrymander two poems together or to split them up.

If I were to describe myself as a poet in a metaphor, I would consider myself to be a frustrated filmmaker. Not necessarily a sculptor, although I think our methods are similar.

What's your metaphor for poetry?

15 comments:

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  2. Unromantically, and strangely--since I have very little interest in math at all--I tend to think of writing poetry as balancing equations. I WISH I could do in poetry something like what is done in music...by which I mean sound, of course, but even more: provoking a strong physical response (no vomit jokes, please)--not just at the end, but even throughout a poem. A poem equivalent of "Sing, Sing, Sing"...entrances and exits. And now I'm going to hide because I keep thinking of that scene in Dead Poets Society where the boys are all chanting Vachel Lindsay...

    yrs,
    em

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  3. Oh, PS--I think "Limp-Wristed Faggot" is marvelous (cool assignment, too). And driving to work today I got stuck on the idea of Legos as a metaphor for heterosexuality...
    em

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  4. fuckit. howz yr ear?

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  5. Heh, my ear is no longer painful, although I have experienced some hearing loss on that side.

    Overall, I'm just feeling better...emerging from this horrible flu/cold thing.

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  10. A million apologies, Charles. There seems to have been a major technical glich!

    This renders my comment far less pithy than intended!

    Anyway, as concerns metaphors, I would have to go with bricklayer.

    Once again, apologies for the atrocious number of deletions! Teaches me to toy with a new browser format.

    Slainte.

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  11. I guess I would have to say mixed-media collage. That is what I ended up doing, not so coincidentally, just before switching to poetry. I was fascinated with print-making from collages of painting fused with photography and other media. We are creatures of habit.

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  12. In the past I've felt like a sculptor, more recently I would add photography.

    To tell you the truth...I'm really a frustrated backup singer. Sometimes a lounge singer. ;-)

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  13. Music. Specifically, I tend to think of my work in terms of "singles" and "albums." For the last several years I've written sequences -- or "serial poems" -- almost exclusively, in other words, "albums."

    "Singles" are poems that don't fit into a sequence. Of course, this veers from the traditional idea of a single as a song that's pulled from an album.

    I'm an eccentric musician; that's my metaphor.

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  14. Music for me. Orchestral, though. All through high school and even two or three years into college (ok, still now, I admit it) I wanted to be a composer--give me Eric Whitacre, Elliot Goldenthal, David Gillingham any day.

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  15. I'd rather be a brick-layer, but that's, like, so much work.

    THat is, my current metaphor of choice is the poem as some kind of shelter.

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