Tuesday, April 19, 2016

You Write, I Write, We All Write Poetry Part 2

The Language Of Poetry

The language of poetry is an odd one. It is based primarily on the art of comparison, not simply comparing similar things, but comparing very different things to one another.

In the study of logic, comparing say, apples to oranges, is a fallacy of ambiguity called conflation. The principles of logic do not allow for the treatment of dissimilar things as one.

When writing poetry, however, the poet relies on conflation and ambiguity to create a particular effect or a deeper meaning.

There are basically three forms of comparison used by poets. Two are conditional and the third is direct.

Let's look at the conditional comparisons first. Both go by the term simile, with one form using the word, "as," to make the comparison, and the other using the word, "like."


Love is as fragile as a rose.

Here, the writer is using a simile to compare two obviously different things. Love is clearly not a rose, but the writer wants to suggest that "love" and the "rose" have something in common, that the two have a similar condition. Love is fragile, much like the rose blossom is after it blooms and then withers away. There is little ambiguity here.

Love is like a rose.

Once again, the writer is using a simile to compare two obviously different things. However, the condition of being "fragile" is omitted. As a result, the ambiguity of the comparison increases, since we have no idea how the writer sees the two as similar. It is up to the reader to deduce what conditional connection the two have in common.

The greater ambiguity in this simile allows for more interpretations by the reader. "Love" may be fragile, beautiful, fragrant, cultured, natural, or pastoral — well, who can say for sure? The line asks you to bring your conceptions of love and roses together and draw some association between the two, but the comparison remains conditional. The writer is not saying the two are exactly alike, just that there is some vague similarity between the two, and that the rose therefore somehow defines what love is. Again, how a rose defines love is left completely up to you.

A direct comparison between two different things is called a metaphor. This poetic tool is the most powerful of all, because a metaphor creates even more ambiguity and is open to many interpretations.

Love is a rose.

The metaphor omits the word, "as" or "like," and as a result, peels off all the conditional similarities. Using a metaphor implies the two are identical, presumably in every way. The reader is left to work through the ambiguity and come to some interpretation of what the writer feels with regards to love. In the end, even that doesn't matter. What the writer wants is for you to decide how you feel about love. You may see it as something incredibly beautiful, but you may also see it as something fragile and destined to perish over the span of time.

In effect, the writer removes him/herself from the conundrum, and leaves the puzzle in your hands to figure out, if you're so inclined.

So, now you have some tools in your possession to begin writing great poetry.

Tomorrow, we'll begin to do just that, by writing one of the simplest poems of all.




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