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Thread: Literal Poetry

  1. #21
    Metaphor requires context. Sunrise is a beginning. Sunset is the end. Time of day, seasons, without other context are literal. With support denote lifespan.
    I would say there is data, but it has to be recognized as such. A chance has to be taken, a question asked: does this and this point toward a conclusion?
    A tougher question is... what is my impression? Because not having esp, you could be completely off. Again, a chance has to be taken. The chance to be wrong.
    Last edited by Kevin; July 9th, 2018 at 05:58 PM.

  2. #22

    It is possible to paint a can of soup so that it is a reproduction of a can of coup so exact that 95% of viewers would think it a photograph. It is possible to take a precise photograph of the outside path leading away from the front door, then paste it on the glass front door, and have people walk right into it, thinking it real. This kind of 'trickery' is possible only in VISUAL art. In Vonnegut's Breakfast of Championsthere's an amusing moment where one male character waves a Playboyfold-out of a naked woman at another guy, and says excitedly, "Wow man! look at that! Would I ever love to fuck that!" The other guy says "slow down buddy! Are you all right?" That. . .that's a piece of PAPER!" Interestingly, the coarse guy is 'correct'--the photo of the woman elicits a perception which he OWNS. That's what he sees. . .and he has the evidence to prove it. The philosophical guy is also correct. . .and he has the evidence to prove it. We can argue endlessly about which perception is more significant, but that ushers in value systems and cultural conditioning and all sorts of stuff extraneous to this thread.

    Words and language are an entirely different world of communication and Art, and metaphor is a complex extension of language that can obfuscate The Real. . .or enhance it. A photo is a photo. It has no inherent symbolic meaning. We may assign or declare values to words, but they are not inherent. Every word, however, is some kind of symbol. Perhaps 'signal' or 'trigger' would be more accurate. The word 'cat' is NOT literally a furry, meowing, critter that purrs. The written word CAT is an assembly of one curved and five straight lines in a fixed pattern that our language pool agrees stands for that furry etc. Similarly, we have agreed that this word 'cat' will be SOUNDED in a particular way. And that sound is not literally that furry etc, either. It seems fair, then, to propose that , as soon as we utter them, words are already one remove from The Real. And though it would be glib to say that 'literal' and 'real' mean the same thing, they are very close in colloquial meaning. Merely writing or uttering a word, however, is meaning-less. Meaning is dictated by context. Wittgenstein said, provocatively, "Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination". In other words, the word itself is a PREPARATION for channelling towards meaning. The word, placed in context, provides 'meaning'. . . .but 'meaning' can only reside in a human mind, and all minds are different, so--even though we agree on what a specific word signals and we have the word channelled in a context, it must now go thru the idiosyncratic filter system of each perceiver. And regardless of the general agreement about a given word, there will be subtle further differences in the way individuals receive information.,,

    I know what Darkkin means in her carefully phrased question:
    is it possible for a piece of poetry to be entirely literal and still be considered a viable piece of poetry because it was not written with the purpose of metaphoric expression of an idea? e.g.A verse describing a sunset,

    No, a poem cannot be "entirely" literal, because words and language are ALREADY metaphoric. The issue is one of degree: we have a general sense of what a sunset, usually, looks like. To the extent that a verbal description of a sunset conforms to that pre-conception--the more most of us will regard it as 'literal'. That POV seems almost simple-minded after all this hair-splitting discussion of the nature of words and language, but that is indeed what it comes down to. And even if a poet succeeds in purely describing a sunset with no metaphors, no symbolism, no figurative 'devices' there is no stopping readers from regarding the WHOLE metaphor-free poem as itself ​a metaphor for some larger condition.


    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  3. #23

  4. #24
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkkin View Post
    Deeper layers which are assigned by the reader, not the writer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkkin View Post
    without quantifiable, allegorical parallels
    Quote Originally Posted by Darkkin View Post
    Is their understanding found wanting
    Quote Originally Posted by Darkkin View Post
    Literal is an easy concept because it makes sense, it is linear, geometric, an embodiment of fractal extrapolation.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darkkin View Post
    If a reader finds deeper meaning, great, but without tangible parallels to established patterns opinion remains opinion. Is a writer, who does not actively seek to use a widely understood element like metaphor any less able to communicate effectively, than those who actively use the tool? Is their understanding found wanting, when compared to those who see profound metaphor in a word as mundane as sunset?
    I wonder if metaphor and meaning is an unavoidable side effect of simply using a language, even if one doesn't intend it. It could be argued that they are so ingrained into our linguistic canon that we barely notice them. In the above, "deeper layers" is very metaphorical, to me. Text doesn't have literal layers (well, it has lines). Parallels is a geometric term yet here it is, describing literature and poems. Understanding can't "want" - people can "want" to aid their understanding, yet I get just what you mean. And so on. So I think it is just a natural byproduct of using a comon language and referring to shared experiences. But equally it can probably go too far. Writers take a punt (sporting metaphor, suggesting leaving things to chance somewhat) every time they use one, I would imagine. I've read metaphors that are so personalised as to hopelessly miss the mark. Equally, some people may think in metaphors more than others, and be able to deploy them to effect. And while some people may be inclined to write about a sunset if one is feeling the sorts of feelings associated with a sunset, thus potentially prompting the right sort of symbols to tumble out anyway, I would argue that everything is, or needs to be, a signifier. Sometimes, can't things just be?

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  5. #25
    A writer writes, the word to mean the word. The reader reads the word that is the word, story for the sake of story. Literally written, literally read. Though rare, a few of these individuals exist. To the greatest majority of the population, there is deeper, symbolic meaning in everything, hence the inherent metaphoric translation matrices of the human brain. But as with all things there are extremes in every spectrum, literal communication does exist, just as deeper meanings do. It is the definition of definition and the established baseline for quantified, academically recognised word compendiums. Dictionaries. Just let the word or image be, and it is literal. People's thought, however, will always be their own as they should be.

    As with all things if one believes in one extreme of the spectrum, one must also reconcile the existence of the other. Matter to antimatter.
    Last edited by Darkkin; July 10th, 2018 at 08:53 PM.

  6. #26
    bd-- a provocative post. We stand on similar foundations. Metaphor IS, as you put it, "ingrained' into the structure of words (signposts) and language (the complete highway). The image is especially apt because language enables the transfer of information and needs across distance from one person or group to another person or group, and within language, analogy (precursor to all metaphors, I would think) in a finely tuned enabler that crosses cognitive boundaries and OPENS understanding. Not necessarily "truth" but understanding of ranges of possibility offered by the person with whom one is communicating. Truth is not necessarily exactitude, as seems to be assumed by many. 2 + 2 = 4 is an exact piece of work with numbers, but in a chaotic or crazily distracting environment it could "equal" whatever a receiver decides it might mean. "What is Truth?" asked Pontius Pilate (John 18:3, and although he had Jesus in front of him, the question seems directed more to the air than to Jesus. Darkkin cites dictionaries as an example of literal meaning. The word is the word. Dr. Johnson would probably have agreed, though he expressed misgiving when he introduced our first Dictionary in 1755 that his book might "codify" the enormous complexity of language and result in false complacency. Agreement on spelling should not be mistaken for single-mindedness of thought.

    Let me close my little contribution to this important discussion of metaphor by referring to a 2009 Review by Peter Turney. In the passage below he is quoting Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought. I've taken the liberty of highlighting in blue a section that seems most helpful to our concerns in this thread. That section does not 'resolve' the issue of 'literal' vs 'deeper' meaning, but it does indicate how intricately metaphor interweaves with language at its roots.

    No one has a problem with the idea that the lens of an eye and the lens of a telescope are two instances of the general category “lens,” rather than the telescope being a “metaphor” for the eye. Nor is there anything metaphorical going on when we refer to “the genetic code”: a code by now is an information-theoretic term for a mapping scheme, and it subsumes cryptograms and DNA as special cases. But do cognitive psychologists use the computer as a “metaphor” for the mind, or (as I believe) can it be said that the mind literally engages in computation, and that the human mind and commercial digital computers are two exemplars of the category “computational system”?

    So the ubiquity of metaphor in language does not mean that all thought is grounded in bodily experience, nor that all ideas are merely rival frames rather than verifiable propositions. Conceptual metaphors can be learned and used only if they are analyzed into more abstract elements like “cause,” “goal,”, and “change,” which make up the real currency of thought. The methodical use of metaphor in science shows that metaphor is a way of adapting language to reality, not the other way around, and that it can capture genuine laws in the world, not just project comfortable images onto it.
    Though metaphors are omnipresent in language, many of them are effectively dead in the minds of today’s speakers, and the living ones could never be learned, understood, or used as a reasoning tool unless they were built out of more abstract concepts that capture the similarities and differences between the symbol and the symbolized. For this reason, conceptual metaphors do not render truth and objectivity obsolete, nor do they reduce philosophical, legal, and political discourse to a beauty contest between rival frames.

    Still, I think that metaphor really is a key to explaining thought and language. The human mind comes equipped with an ability to penetrate the cladding of sensory appearance and discern the abstract construction underneath — not always on demand, and not infallibly, but often enough and insightfully enough to shape the human condition. Our powers of analogy allow us to apply ancient neural structures to newfound subject matter, to discover hidden laws and systems in nature, and not least, to amplify the expressive power of language itself. — Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought see:


    "I believe in nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of the imagination". Keats, ​Letters

    "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. " John Donne, Meditation XVII

  7. #27
    At whatever age I was when I first questioned the reliability of language (I think it was about 7), I thought, how do I know that what I hear that person saying is what they think they are saying? Or how do I know that what I am saying is what they think they are hearing? How do I know that everyone agrees on what words mean? Or are we all living in information bubbles that somehow simulate agreement and common understanding. And that's why I became a poet.

  8. #28
    One aspect of literal translation, just like any other unbalanced system is the adaptive work around. When the word is the word, one becomes annoyingly specific with the choice, delineation, and context of one's words. A good, working vocabulary becomes an essential to communicate clearly. It is a work around that is highly effective, especially given the inherent, translative matrices of normal human brains. Most people do not know there is such a gulf in the perspective of the writer and the reader. Interpersonal communications (face to face), that is a whole different level and language, figuratively speaking, as upwards of 90% of communication is nonverbal, with visual cues adding the context.

    Written is way more efficient because the writer is in charge of their context. The sum supporting the whole of its parts. With the majority of the population, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, (the preception and understanding of metaphoric inferences inherent in the representation of symbolic translations). While a few, find merely the sum. The world sees 2 + 2 = 4, and then there is the guy who sees 2.25 + .75 + .25 + .75 + .5 + .5 = 4 or - 2 x -2 = 4. It is possible to get the gist of the idea across, but the process to 4 is not straight forward like it is for most people.

    Then there is also the guy who will reduce 4 to its primes. 1, 2, 3...But 4 being neither a prime and even is not much fun, but add the next two primes of 2 and 3 together and you get 5. Triple primes, double odd. And left field thinking. This is the place where the Nonsense Daisies dwell, especially when it snows in May.
    Last edited by Darkkin; July 11th, 2018 at 04:10 AM.

  9. #29
    That is beautiful to me. I thought I was weird because I questioned meaning of words and meaning period. Always words, because I heard them in different languages. But meaning in general after my grandmother died when I was five. I saw her and knew she was dead. I thought then and have wondered since, why are we as we are? One day living, next day dead. And how on earth is God going to make that dead person live again? I worried for about a year that my breathing was going to stop because someone told me or I overheard “she just stopped breathing.” I guess I am off topic but I could never believe in a literal hell or a literal god. Later I learned that god is within each individual, but not some higher power.
    Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity --it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. John Keats

  10. #30
    I write because the word 'snow' are four letters, but has a world of meaning, Snow is just a word invented to indicate things falling down. Blossom snows, snowflakes snow, my feelings snow, slowly fluttering to the ground in a heartbreaking manner. That's why I write, because these very few letters open up worlds and I already do that for as long as I can remember.

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