on wielding effective metaphors

17 01 2007

if i persist at categorizing experience the way i have been lately, it’ll be okay; acceptable metaphors include dancing, sword-sparring, more specifically sword-dancing, acrobatics, gymnastics, other forms of underwater artistry, weaving (baskets or otherwise, doesn’t really matter, so long as what’s key is finding & creating patterns, pulling strands together, choosing which ones lie closest together & which should go widdershins or be held a few safe rows apart), building houses, bridges, hopefully-not-walls.

borderline or danger-leaning metaphors, like game-playing (intricacies like those involved in chess i certainly see the relevance of, but also i’m wary of the potential of everything becoming about winning, about outfoxing, about desperate efforts to remain un-foxed, & the destructive potential of the sort of flailing desperation brings), battling (it would be so easy to construct each moment that way, but really, at this point, what the hell’s the war?), courting, planning, wishing-on; all of these offer hints of insight insufficient by comparison to the delicacy of the houses that they could bring down. other marginally-acceptable metaphors are those about the weather; there’s a lot to weather, if that’s the frame, & it lends a certain flexibility & stamina to successive approximations, but also tends to inspire one to huddle from the cold & play the victim when it really isn’t warranted.

entirely unacceptable metaphors are those involving goalposts, finish-lines, wounds or weapons, and any of the languages of desire (love, sex, money, freedom, acquisition, accreditation, “success”). it’s hard enough to keep one’s head on straight (i’ve done it for years) in blizzards like this without directly running interference against oneself.

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10 responses

18 01 2007
sometimerose

INeffective metaphors
They just knocked down all the trees on the property next door to our house. It would be a great metaphor except for the fact that even considering its possibility as a metaphor makes me feel like a cliche or a melodramatic teenager. Instead it’s just depressing.

19 01 2007
tyra

Re: INeffective metaphors
yeah, don’t you hate when our acts of “progress” become so ridiculously predictable that they’re as impossible to satirize as country songs? you can’t say anything about anything so obscenely blatant. damnit.

19 01 2007
sometimerose

Re: INeffective metaphors
You’ve probably heard this one before, but this has always been my favorite country song satire (well, sort of satire) (from Wikipedia on David Allan Coe):
“Coe finally hit the Top Ten with “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” in 1975. The song, written by Steve Goodman and John Prine with one verse inspired by a letter Coe sent to Goodman, is known as “the perfect country and western song”. It includes a narrative in which Coe explains that the perfect country and western song has to mention “Mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin’ drunk”, whereupon he sings the last verse:
Well, I was drunk the day my Mom got out of prison,
And I went to pick her up in the rain,
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck,
She got runned over by a damned old train.”

18 01 2007
faerieariel

Lately I have been unable to embrace metaphors about trees and vegetation and planting/harvesting and growing, and flowers that open and close. Today I was googling game-theory and genetics, which both have some fun metaphors in them, albeit a bit depressing. Imageek.

19 01 2007
tyra

i’ll look for those in your poems, & then run off with them all pirate-like. 🙂

18 01 2007
reedrover

I read the title here as “weirding.” My head’s not on quite straight I guess.
I like swimming in a lake as a metaphor. There’s no goal or finish line unless you want one. You can have company or not as you choose. You can dive and twist and turn and splash and blow bubbles and float on your back and watch the clouds blow by… And regardless of what you do, the mere act of swimming makes you stronger.

19 01 2007
tyra

&, see, i want to follow this w/you & see it as peaceful and good, but to me it’s a chilly dark lake, & it’s scary how i have no idea what’s even three feet beneath me, let alone thirty or three-hundred. i’ve only swum in the wrong lakes for this metaphor!

19 01 2007
reedrover

Obviously you’ve got the wrong kind of lake! Ick! Yeah, that’s not a good metaphor for you.
I’m talking about lakes like these, where the water is crystal clear and the rocks at the bottom shimmer in golds and greys, and the mountains throw shadows across the trees.

18 01 2007
cheshirrrecat

i dont think my brain can even handle speaking in metaphors anymore. at least not right now. do you mean specifically metaphors or language using those words/images at all? i think my headache is getting in the way of understanding anything today. :p

19 01 2007
tyra

lol–
metaphor as a category of which similes are one, the stuff they call “metaphor b/c it doesn’t say ‘like’ and isn’t a simile” are one, & oblique reference even if you don’t draw attention to it in any way is another.
technically, your brain “handling” anythng is already metaphor; brains don’t have hands & can’t manipulate objects. but we speak as if they can because it’s way easier than having a different set of verbs for *everything*–and because talking in terms of “grasping” or “handling” gives us a common way to think about thinking, one that’s valuable for our understanding, even if it isn’t literally true.
they don’t teach us that in school, for some reason. they don’t teach us much that’s usefully complete, really. damn them! ::shakes fist at invisible enemy::

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