Seven Variations on a Sentence

1. Build box fill with content space controls design states theme bounces against thesis walled margin defined area filled with persons places things painted drawn and quartered in actions still within lines.

2. Build tables cells macro plots instruct how to within what build city filled roads on roads place persons places things actions ruled within scheme bordered function.

3. Shape controlled text how said informed what said syllabus sawhorse lay round flat stones for flat feet map outlined argument billed old metaphor electronically melting build light to power body sun swayed body.

4. Old metaphors corrupt case cold call book disappeared in closed pit wings line empty library shelves body of fabrication strip-milled pall-mall plumbing hidden in alley walls.

5. Build statement paper small hamlet few houses number pages lines words characters  define beginning finite end create punctuation to manage tasks a men an age.

6. Align build assign venture run meet-and-greet purpose audience use rows columns fixed to stage con persons places things rotate rows to columns columns to rows persons to things places to persons things to places sketch arranges profile persuades.

7. User friendly unalloyed no-frills click here look ma no hands silhouette of idea.

A Monstrous Metaphor Fished from Walden Pond

If Walden, the pond, as Thoreau tells us (“The Ponds” chapter), sports some, but not many, fish, “…pickerel…perch and pouts…breams, and a couple of eels. Nevertheless, this pond is not very fertile in fish” (174), Walden, the book, is well stocked with metaphorical fish; some, when pulled to the surface, monstrous tropes: “A lake…is earth’s eye…The fluviatile [of a river] trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows” (176). Thus we see the earth as a Cyclops, a one-eyed monster, the eye stretched into an imperfect circle, trees for lashes and eyebrows, hills for forehead. And the eye, at a certain time of the day, the sun, another eye, gazing into its waters, contains fluid a kind of “molten glass cooled but not congealed” (177). The picture we see here is not the standard product of the bucolic water-colorist; more like a Salvador Dali painting.

The face of the earth is dotted with these Cyclopes, but these eyes are protected against blindness, as Thoreau explains in yet another figurative device, the riddle, which he uses to sieve his pond. What is a mirror which no stone can crack? He gives us the answer: “[The lake] is a mirror which no stone can crack” (178).

Yet we’ve already been introduced to the lake as a mouth, so now we’ve to add a mouth to our Cyclops’s eye: “By this fluctuation the pond asserts its title to a shore, and thus the shore is shorn, and the trees cannot hold it by right of possession. These are the lips of the lake on which no beard grows. It licks its chaps from time to time” (172). What a face!

The metaphorical mouth surrounds the eye-trope, the eye sits in the mouth, and the eye is sometimes blue, but often, in places, “of a yellowish tint,” or again, “vivid green…verdure…Such is the color of its iris.” (167). And at the bottom of this eye, “logs…like huge water snakes in motion” (188).

Thoreau finishes “The Ponds” chapter with a metaphorical flourish: “Nature has no human inhabitant who appreciates her” (188). No doubt.

Related:

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. 1854. Boston: Beacon Press, July 15, 2004 [Introduction and Annotations by Bill McKibben].

Plato, Pablo, and the Poetics of Health Care

Plato considered poets dangerous and banned them from his Republic, and Il Postino (1994) illustrates his point, yet also shows that we are all poets, all who use language – to love and berate, to tackle and persuade, to testify and exhort. The movie, from the book Burning Patience, by Antonio Skarmeta, a fiction set on an island of Pablo Neruda’s temporary exile, is about the democracy of language, how metaphor permeates our lives, and the consequences inherent in desiring more than our own voices can bear, even through poetry. 

Is contemporary poetry outside the margins of popular US culture? Maybe, but the creation of metaphor is still the heart of language and language the heart of culture. In the film, this is ironically dramatized by Aunt Rosa. During her hilarious visit to Pablo to complain of his contributing to the poetic delinquency of Beatrice, she lets loose with an invective that ably employs a fishnet of metaphors to describe Pablo’s bad influence on Mario and Mario’s hypnotizing effect on her niece. The blame falls on the poet for stirring the emotions of the tainted republic of the island. 

Poetry sleeps around, moving through Plato’s five regimes. Democracy gives way to tyranny; Plato should have banned lobbyists – then maybe the Republic, though awash in a bath of poetry, might at least have a decent health care system, not to mention an adequate water supply.