Literal Poetry

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Thread: Literal Poetry

  1. #1

    Literal Poetry

    Poetry is an impossibly incorporeal medium countless writers have tried to define. Just like with all types of writing, there is really no wrong or right way to write it or read it. Its species are legion from sonnets and villanelles to blank verse and prose poetry; it can take just about any form a writer can think of. However, among writers one of the most common and crucial elements that seems to be a requisite of any type of poem is metaphor. Given that all writing is entirely subjective to the understanding, context, and interpretation of the reader, 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?


    A verse describing a sunset, a finite moment perserved by the author's imagination.

    Just some thoughts...

    - D.

  2. #2
    I would think so, though of course one may use metaphor here and there to help describe that sunset or whatever the subject is.

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  3. #3
    Poetry is words about emotions experienced in every aspect of a life...for me it lacks the ability to communicate compared to all other art has it's place but for me it just doesn't have the wow factor...
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  4. #4
    Of course it is possible to write the poem with a literal intention in mind. The sunset example can be written by a poet who wishes to write about a sunset. The point however is, that as soon as it is published, readers can adhere very different meanings to a poem, and it can be read on several levels, regardless the intention of the poet at the time of writing. So, whether the poet likes it or not, a sunset can (not has to) be regarded as a metaphor for the autumn of life.
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  5. #5
    The question comes down to the meaning of meaning. All communication is symbolic. There is no such thing as direct communication. No one can read another's mind. Words represent concepts. Letters represent words. All communication requires interpretation by the receiver. The recipient can only make associations about what he/she receives and build meaning based on those associations.

    If you believe, like I do, that the universe is fractal, that patterns repeat, and that everything is connected in some not-yet-understood way, then everything is representative of everything else. That is the basis of metaphor. You cannot say or write anything that does not represent more than what the initial intention is. There is really no such thing as literal communication. Good poetry not only acknowledges that, it takes advantage of it. Those who say their poetry is literal do not understand the deeper symbolic layers that they are, in fact, expressing.

  6. #6
    They don't understand what they are writing, yet still they have the ability to write that which they do not understand. It sounds a bit like shaman who speaks in tongues, perfect fluid language supported by context and logic, but when the trance is broken they have no idea of what they said, no memory of using tools they cannot wield with conscious intent.

    Others 'normal' readers find manifold means in the words, words that in the eyes of the author are the embodiment of their definitions. Readers then tell the writer that Work X means, concepts A - Q. e.g. The curtains were blue is extrapolation of a character's depression. It is not a parallel allegory, the imagery and message equal to the impact of the inherent meaning. By extension, an element like kenning is a more effective tool for maintaining balance between an allegory and its idea.


    Literal, the Azure Pygmy Giraffe. The source of the Primary color blue. Hence his title as a Primary, a literal embodiment. When Literal goes missing, (taken by the Mundame), all blues are taken from the world. Greens and purples disappear...The entire colour spectrum is effected. A once vibrant world becomes mundane and all things fall out of balance. Pure nonsense, but the profound impact the removal of blue from the colour spectrum is a concept that is easily visible to the majority of people. Yet there are the people who are completely colour blind. The effects of the removal of a primary colour as a visual image would have little to no impact because colour is not a concept they know how to biologically reference because all they see it a thousand shades of grey between the black and white.

    Metaphors are the thousand shades of grey most people can distinguish and understand, while the concept of colour is being explained by someone with tetrachromacy.

    Another example that is way more linear, an exercise based on a fractal alliterative pattern:


    Ripples tuxedo sleek, something traces—
    reflections, refractions—reality, rarity.
    Clad in light’s abeyance, a life cleaves,
    reality taken, sundered, something traces.

    Rational rendered inert, impossibilites reign.
    Among the improbable, isolated tides resides
    a monarch, sole survivor, much sought—
    His tracks slight, sleek tuxedoed traces.

    Light’s absence his crown, courage hidden
    beneath a breast, bumbling and homely,
    a bird, flightlessly rotund. Restless, fretful,
    he reads them, the ripples, rarity’s traces.

    He, Ratio, Penguin Prince, reigns—
    his realm, the ever-changing ripples,
    the eternal tidal turned Stepping Stones.

    Ratio, Lone Navigator of the Strangeways.

    Parallel alliteration in simple black and white. Literal embodiment. What is the hidden meaning of a poem about a nonsensical penguin who knows where he is going?
    Last edited by Darkkin; July 8th, 2018 at 07:14 AM.

  7. #7
    Isn't haiku simply literal description, the words being so meager there is no metaphor, only that which is ascribed by the reader which is typically an image in nature?

  8. #8
    "How are you?"

    "I'm fine."

    (Wonder what he meant by that?)

    I suppose that's pretty literal, but of course he may not be fine, maybe he just doesn't want to talk about it. I suppose narrative poetry, telling a story, could be literal - but so often there's a Aesop to be learned (as in the Ancient Mariner). I've written several poems from simple observation of nature, but used imagery to describe it. What I saw (like a sunset) was literal, but still can be intercepted by the reader in various ways.

    In any case, a poet can't force a reader to think like they do. It's an exercise in futility. Write your poem, quit worrying how the reader interprets it.
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  9. #9
    People, by design, are unique, which makes one's perceptions entirely subjective. Readers are not meant to have a mind meld with the writer, as opinion is based on personal observation not fact. Basically no wrong or right way to go about a creative process e.g. reading or writing. What is fundamentally unsound is saying that a writer does not understand the multitude of layered symbolic meaning they (themselves) are expressing. The reader's interpretation being an esotaric extrapolation based on opinion, not linear reasoning. It is not wrong, but it also is not fact.

    Express by its first definition, means directly, firmly, explicitly...The literal embodiment of literal. The word means what it means. Homer's wine-dark waters, waters the colour of wine because at the time they had no equivalent word for reddish-purple waters. Violets, which used to be called blue, because again, no word described the colour of the flower concisely. And something is not truly Tyrian Purple unless it is accompanied by its inherent sea borne stench. Exactingly specific examples, a clear expression on the shades of purple. As a writer, personally, I tend to use explicit examples, colours, textures, scents, tastes to illustrate a finite idea. The velveteen, light absorbing traits of Fennec the Pocket Fox's pelt, a literal embodiment of how light behaves when trapped in the gravitational pull of a black hole. The image chosen because it is concise, and firmly conveys the traits desired. With a linear approach to word selection, the writer expresses the exact image. What the reader takes away from it is wholly up to them, but to say the writer does not understand what they are expressng is disservice to the writer.

    More on this later.

    - D.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    Isn't haiku simply literal description, the words being so meager there is no metaphor, only that which is ascribed by the reader which is typically an image in nature?
    It depends. I once wrote one that on the surface was a fairly bland comment on nature, but if you read it as a senryu (human nature), it would have been rather racier. It can be quite an art squeezing something metaphorical into seventeen syllables (or less), but it can be done.

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