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Teach me Metaphor (1 Viewer)

Chiefspider

Senior Member
OK so I recently made a thread about poetry rules and what-nots and had a lot of great advice, so again I ask for your help - I know what metaphors are but suck at deciphering them and figuring out how to use them, and they seem to be key in a lot of great poems. So if not to much trouble, I would like some help if you please :D
 
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Angel101

Senior Member
Ah, I love metaphors! You have to really think outside the box a lot of the time. The best idea of deciphering metaphors is to look for context clues within the poem and to try not to take anything too literally. But also keep in mind that not every poet is out there making metaphors, so don't overcomplicate things (I have a bad habit of doing this myself).

To write them, there are a bunch of different things you can do. I can't really help you with thinking up ideas. I don't have a formula for it myself. My mind just sort of goes there. But once you come up with your metaphor, you want to make sure to include the context clues that you'd look for if you were a reader. I have a habit of being ambiguous, but I always include little clues to give readers some sort of insight. But that can be a turn off. I like people to dig, but not everyone likes to dig. So it's really up to you if you want to make your metaphor apparent or ambiguous. And I'm sure there's some kind of happy medium in between.

The second thing you want to do is make sure you're consistent with your metaphor. If you're not, then you're just going to confuse readers even more. You don't want that.

Now, I'm going to give you an example of what I mean by those context clues using one of my own poems. Not that I'm an expert, but I know my poetry well (obviously), so I can show you real specifics.

This poem is a pretty recent one. It's a metaphor for creating poetry that's all the same underneath all the metaphors. So here we go!

Red = Words indicating creation.

Blue = Words indicating poetry/writing/metaphors

Green = Words indicating everything being the same

Breeding

Hair-threads sketch triangles in my tub
baby points with barbed ends.
And they’ll get you every time.
Stirring with a water blanket,
make them concentric shapes.
Perfect, layered mirrors.
I’ll spoon out every sector
to dip my fingers in.
Molding. My babies.

The skin, growing with a velvet gloss,
weaving through the pelts, in muscular blueprints.
Burned into place. No creases.
Lay the children in vertical rows,
Immaculate lines. Walk between the walls.
All the faces to sift through.
Don’t touch them. They’re just so brittle.

Mix more expressions. Not so much ice.
Bubbles breaking the blanket.
These faces are perfect.
Put them with the rest.

Doll collection—pieces I can see.
All my babies look the same. All my babies look like me.
There’s magma in my veins, suckling through every part.
Cavities all over my chest. Concentric.
All the fluid to my tub. Another replica.
The lines rotate and gather in a ring.
Moving makes breaking.

They’ll take you.
Hair ropes, hair roads.
Silk on your skin that’s frayed at the end.
Tread the pieces, breathe metaphorical fog.
Dissolving path—the same place.
Always where it hurts.
Idiopathic.

And I’m still mixing in my tub,
all these children that I love.

And notice that the poetry part is very subtle. That's just my style. I really like writing thing that people have to dig for. My point is that you always have to give your readers some sort of "secret decoder ring" as my friend calls it. My secret decoder rings have a code of their own--haha--but you don't have to go that crazy.

Hope that helped a little. I feel like I'm rambling and not making any sense!
 

Chiefspider

Senior Member
@angel101 thank you! that has helped me, I have a better understanding of how you create and decipher them :D

@Squalid Glass lol I understand the meaning of metaphor, just not how to create one, or recognize them in other pieces - but after angel101's explanation I have a better understanding :D
 

RHPeat

Met3 Group Leader
Staff member
Senior Mentor
Metaphor. :)

A direct comparison between two unlike things.

Squalid

Not always when we speak of the metaphoric language of poetry as a specific type of understanding to form epiphany from the poem. Then we are literally speaking about use of hundreds of different types of figurative speech as the suggestive use of language. It's far more about innuendo. Check out the glossary I just posted at the end of all the threads. You might find it very interesting about what is considered metaphorical in use of poetry. We are speaking of the use of metaphorical devices in language. And there many different kinds in poetry.

a poet friend
RH Peat
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
Bit of a zombie thread...From 2011...
.... and your point is?

This has the potential to be an informative discussion.

Check out the glossary I just posted at the end of all the threads. You might find it very interesting about what is considered metaphorical in use of poetry. We are speaking of the use of metaphorical devices in language. And there many different kinds in poetry.

Thank you, Ron. The list is an excellent resource. I've shared the link
http://www.writingforums.com/threads/172822-The-Metaphorical-amp-The-Conceit-(Glossary-)
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Bit of a zombie thread...From 2011...

True, it has sat dormant for a while, but RHPeat's contribution has validity, and threads here don't lose their immediacy in the same way as those in the creative threads. An interesting list, RH. The slightly academic air makes me want to write a few more of my 'figures' where I have tried to introduce them in a more populist way. One would expectwriting about writing to be written in such a way that it was an easy read, it is surprising how often it isn't considering they are the experts :)
 

RHPeat

Met3 Group Leader
Staff member
Senior Mentor
True, it has sat dormant for a while, but RHPeat's contribution has validity, and threads here don't lose their immediacy in the same way as those in the creative threads. An interesting list, RH. The slightly academic air makes me want to write a few more of my 'figures' where I have tried to introduce them in a more populist way. One would expectwriting about writing to be written in such a way that it was an easy read, it is surprising how often it isn't considering they are the experts :)

Oily
By all means do it. I made the statement below my listing for just such an order with or without napkins. Dirty fork and spotted spoon at the dinner of your choice bring on the grub from the wormwood. Set the table and put your buckle on it.

I'd love to see your new snack.
All metaphors are intended.

:rofl:

a poet friend
RH Peat
 
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RHPeat

Met3 Group Leader
Staff member
Senior Mentor
@angel101 thank you! that has helped me, I have a better understanding of how you create and decipher them :D

@Squalid Glass lol I understand the meaning of metaphor, just not how to create one, or recognize them in other pieces - but after angel101's explanation I have a better understanding :D

Saualid

Read my center portion about the conceit in my essay on the metaphorical. It is completely written in a metaphorical presentation. If you understand its clarity you understand the metaphors. If you understand the metaphors you know how much you already use them in your daily language usage. The language itself is not free of metaphors. But understand too that they are figures of speech in a way that suggests far more than what is said. You do this all the time with your friends and family, you might even have references to an inside joke and those too are metaphors. You need to stop thinking that metaphors are something you don't understand at all, for they are common place. True, poetry can use more complicated forms of metaphors but nonetheless we all use them ever day. Ciphering them is common place, if you know there construction tear them apart for yourself. But generally it's just a matter of reading the images for feeling rather than meaning. The bigger confusing being the poems have meaning. Well they don't at all. The instill meaning in another. Which something very different. Art or all kinds is emotional content and not meaning, meaning in yourself is on derived from the art process. Example:

_________________________________________________________

He says, "hand me the socket wrench"; she says "what's a socket wrench?". He says, the one with the with a cup at right angles to the handle.

Oh-oh he just used a metaphor, sockets are not cups as she sees cup on the table. This might be a loaded statement for her. Or can she actually make the leap with all the other information given about the tool in all his statements? If so, she hands it to him.

This is exactly how the metaphor should work in a poem as well. The reader needs to see the poem as a complete field to itself; it has its own reality. That it is all the given information including the depth of the metaphor. The reader isn't allowed to give more text to the poem; they have to stick to what has been given. So everything inside the metaphor refers to everything outside the metaphor. This is why it is said a metaphor has two sides. Even a simple metaphor or simile has two sides. A likeness, a comparison or an antithesis is taking place.
_________________________________________________________

Figurative use of language becomes more entangled, but it all still has to be there inside the complete poem or inside the specific metaphor; if in fact the metaphor is doing its job. If it isn't at all then there is a problem with the poem and its metaphor.

As a fellow writer in any workshop I would call someone on their intent if the metaphor wasn't working for me. I would want to know why? Two things can come out of this that are positive. You learn more, or they realize they need to fix something in the poem or the metaphor itself inside the poem.

In this assumption of course they could both be egotistical idiots and ignore all of it; thinking they know everything to known about poetry. I've been at it for over 60 years and I'm still learning about poetry as I write it. I call that just wanting to be the real poet.

Well maybe they know everything about poetry, excluding Einstein's theory of relativity. We wouldn't wish to press the idiots too far in such dilemmas in a workshop. For then it could become far more personal rather than "constructive sharing" with "creative insights" to allow both to grow.
_________________________________________________________

Beyond the example above Realize to grow you first must make yourself vulnerable to the new information. In your case, you mastered the first problem already by identifying it as understanding metaphors. If you can't do that and then experiment with it; you won't learn anything about metaphors. So you have to become the writer of metaphors to learn more. A group workshop is what is called for, there. You want feedback from different sources. This doesn't mean giving up your right to self awareness at all. For in fact it expands it, with even more responsibilities to yourself and all others.

For every poet needs an audience or else there is no show and no music. In truth the best poets wrote for everyone else even those they disliked while maintaining their personal voice. None of them got to the top by accident, for poetry is the most underpaid art there is, and the poet has to work as hard to obtain his his audience, as he works at writing at his best. For the merit is found in the eyes of the audience. They are what makes poetry one of the humanities, and all the arts are the humanities. That means sharing personal human experience with others is common place to all art. You can be yourself, and still share who you are. In fact it is quite easy. So writing for "yourself" is chewed bubble gum under the desk top. You only need to retain your personal voice in all the arts. That deals with style and technique nothing identifies who you are more inside artistic form as these two things. We look at a Van Gogh and we know it's a Van Gogh. We read Dylan Thomas and we know its Dylan Thomas. Everything else is chewed bubble gum and self masturbation as ego. Writing for yourself is the easiest thing in the world to debunk because its all about ego. And the greatest poem in the world doesn't need an ego to stand on to tell us all something truly unique and individual as a human experience. The author does not have to be known to make it memorable and emotionally moving.

The three basic characteristics of poetry.
(This is why you need to know how to write metaphors as the poet.)
1. music as vocal sound.
2. the metaphorical use of language.
3. form/content as a single unit.

a poet friend
RH Peat
 
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Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
He says, "hand me the socket wrench"; she says "what's a socket wrench?". He says, the one with the with a cup at right angles to the handle.

Oh-oh he just used a metaphor, sockets are not cups as she sees cup on the table.
Would this be a metonym rather than metaphor?
 

RHPeat

Met3 Group Leader
Staff member
Senior Mentor
Oily

Same concept different name: something is something else? sound like a metaphorical statement. Realize that the metaphorical in poetry is just the figurative use of language. There are endless forms that it can take but they always boil down to someone unread that is said figuratively. That means suggestion or innuendo is metaphorical. The connotative is far more powerful than the denotative when it comes to presenting feelings. And part of what poetry does is evoke and provoke feelings in the reader. All art actually provokes the other's feelings. Definitely the 5 big ones: Visual art, Musical arts, Dramatic arts, Dance arts, Literary arts. They draw you in if they are successful. This is why explaining the artwork is a killer to the art form/content.

see my statement on post #5
Click the number to see page.


a poet friend
RH Peat
 
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Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Depends a bit how you take 'Cup'. If it is something that cups something else, as a bra cups a breast, it is pretty literal. But I'm picking nits, ignore me.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I get a kick out of mixed metaphors.

Here are some by that prolific writer, Anonymous.

While we are ingesting the author's valuable insights, we may also be swallowing his blind spots.

The president will put the ship of state on its feet.

Don't count your chickens until you see the whites of their eyes.

And in the words of the great Archie Bunker (from the tv show All in the Family): "We better not, you know, kill our chickens before they cross the road."
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I like your mixed metaphors Pamelyn, what they do show is how embedded into everyday speech metaphor is, I bet Chiefspider uses them daily without realising. The trick for writers is to have the ability to come up with an unusual comparison that makes the reader take notice when he needs it.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Thanks, Olly.

The topic of metaphors has always been such a confusing and fascinating topic. What's a good or strong metaphor? What's a mixed metaphor? What's a dead metaphor? Metaphors, in their various "types," can be such fun to explore. Here are some more humorous mixed metaphors that I like. That Anonymous writer, who wrote these, sure wrote a lot!

He’s not the one with his ass in a noose.

From now on, I’m watching everything you do with a fine-tuned comb.

She grabbed the bull by the tail and faced the problem squarely.

Clearly we’ve opened a Pandora’s box of worms here.

'I don't like it. When you open that Pandora's box, you will find it full of Trojan horses' Ernest Bevin, Labour Foreign Secretary, on the idea of a Council of Europe, 1948.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I bet Bevin used that one on purpose, he was no fool. A character like Mrs. Malaprop, but who mixed metaphors, would be fun. Mr. Metamix the DJ ?
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I wouldn't doubt that Bevin did that on purpose. I've done it on purpose myself now and then.

For instance, wrote a short-short story where almost every sentence was incorrect-- I deliberately used malapropisms, mixed metaphors, misspellings, and more. It was a semi-finalist in a writing competition earlier this year. (If you'd like, you can read it at http://www.macqueensquinterly.com/MacQ4/Casto-Quink.aspx)

It's such fun to play with words. I was reading a bit about dead metaphors and I discovered that I sure speak a lot of those. Take away our metaphors and what do we have? I dunno.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Poets are gurus of the succinct, experts who can cram profound possibilities into three or four words. But when they turn to the generalities of criticism, a "nervous" gene kicks in: "have we really said enough?" seems the primary concern. Enough is never enough. What deficiency needs to be dealt with in Ron's detailed explanation of metaphor? I see nothing. Pamelyn's mixed metaphors are delightful and add helpful examples of the delicate balance of apparent incongruities within the metaphor, but the actual description of 'metaphor' remains complete and satisfactory.

I'm offering these observations with no motive. It simply struck me that minimalism is expected in poetry but eschewed in criticism. Protracted discussion is essential in dialectic, where intellectually complex ideas are explored, but descriptions are. . .just that. When described, perhaps we should STOP.
 
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