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Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 11, 2006 02:03PM

I am interested in learning how to use symbolism in poetry. It is my understanding that it takes a poem to a higher level than simile or metaphor.
I'd appreciate the posting of any poems containing symbolism and/or discussion on the matter. Thanks.

Marty


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 11, 2006 03:09PM

Marty, read anything by William Blake. The Christian symbolism is unmistakable.

Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 11, 2006 03:16PM

Here's a more secular use of symbolism:

THE LONG HILL
Sara Teasdale

I must have passed the crest a while ago
And now I am going down--
Strange to have crossed the crest and not to know,
But the brambles were always catching the hem of my gown.

All the morning I thought how proud I should be
To stand there straight as a queen,
Wrapped in the wind and the sun with the world under me--
But the air was dull, there was little I could have seen.

It was nearly level along the beaten track
And the brambles caught in my gown--
But it's no use now to think of turning back,
The rest of the way will be only going down.



Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 11, 2006 03:19PM

It is my understanding that it takes a poem to a higher level than simile or metaphor.


Academicians may argue about this, but I'm sure that symbolism adds no more popularity, or shelf life to a poet's works. Think of all the poets you've read and enjoyed, how many of them use symbolism on a regular basis?

By the way, I believe similies and metaphors are also forms of symbolism.


Les

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/11/2006 03:20PM by lg.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 11, 2006 03:28PM

Another symbolic poem:

The Poet and His Song
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

A song is but a little thing,
And yet what joy it is to sing!
In hours of toil it gives me zest,
And when at eve I long for rest;
When cows come home along the bars,
And in the fold I hear the bell,
As Night, the shepherd, herds his stars,
I sing my song, and all is well.

There are no ears to hear my lays,
No lips to lift a word of praise;
But still, with faith unfaltering,
I live and laugh and love and sing.
What matters yon unheeding throng?
They cannot feel my spirit's spell,
Since life is sweet and love is long,
I sing my song, and all is well.

My days are never days of ease;
I till my ground and prune my trees.
When ripened gold is all the plain,
I put my sickle to the grain.
I labor hard, and toil and sweat,
While others dream within the dell;
But even while my brow is wet,
I sing my song, and all is well.

Sometimes the sun, unkindly hot
My garden makes a desert spot;
Sometimes a blight upon the tree
Takes my fruit away from me;
And then with throes of bitter pain
Rebellious passions rise and swell;
But ≠≠ life is more than fruit or grain,
And so I sing, and all is well.

Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 11, 2006 03:42PM

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
--Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it,
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin',
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin',
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin',
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.


Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 11, 2006 06:39PM

I love all the poems you posted, Les, especially "The Poet and His Song" by Dunbar.

Simile is an easy one because you come right out and say one thing is like another. I think metaphor and symbolism are easy to confuse, at least I'm having trouble distinguishing the two. As you say, they are probably all a form of symbolism. Later tonight, I'll read Blake's poetry. Thanks.

Marty


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 12, 2006 07:11AM

I see it with this one!


Ah Sunflower
by William Blake


Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 12, 2006 07:32AM

Wow. A Blake fan for sure. "Auguries of Innocence" is a powerful piece. They're all good. Layers of symbolism. I must say, although I can appreciate modern poetry, I'm partial to the old.

Marty


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 12, 2006 12:54PM

First we must try to understand metaphor itself. According to Ivor Armstrong Richards (leaving 'ground' and 'tension' alone for the moment), a metaphor has a 'tenor' and a 'vehicle'. The tenor is what is meant, but not actually stated; the vehicle is what is actually said. Clear as a teenager's complexion, you say? Let's take a quote from Yeats:

It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat

The crazy salad and meat are not actually being consumed by the fine ladies. Instead William Butler is using a metaphor. The vehicle is then the crazy salad/meat, and the tenor what he actually means. So, fine women do not lead ordinary lives (meat), but instead are offered choices (crazy salad) not available to us plain folks?

Symbolism is then a vehicle where the tenor is never stated. The Princeton suggests thinking of it as an 'expanded metaphor'. Using Blake as an example,

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

The rose and the worm are symbols of 'something', but we are given only vague clues as to what they actually are. In Teasdale's Long Hill, she symbolises her journey along the mountain of life, without actually giving us the tenor/vehicle clarify of specific metaphors.

Is this a better or worse technique than the direct use of simile and/or metaphor? Just different, I would think.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 12, 2006 01:45PM

Marty, I probably should have listed this glossary first, but here it is anyway. Look up the terms "metaphor" "symbolism", and "extended metaphor" to get an idea of how they are used by classic poets.

[www.poeticbyway.com] />

Les

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/12/2006 01:47PM by lg.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 12, 2006 04:27PM

Hugh, you're right that it is important to understand the metaphor, "tenor" and "vehicle". I think I better get that down pat before getting into "extended metaphor", which is where I want to get eventually, Les. Thank you both for your comments and efforts. I've put the link to favorites, which will be helpful.

Marty


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 12, 2006 06:34PM

so she asked me what the cymbals on the couch were,
and I said there was no music
in Lord of the Flies


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 13, 2006 11:52AM

Dang! Reading my note (which is what I should have done before hitting the Post button), I see my examples on Yeats are symbols instead of metaphors. It would be good to have a single example that we can take from the simple to the more complex:

Simile
Metaphor
Symbol
Parable
Analogy
Allusion

I may not have them listed in the right order, but they all seem to me to be aspects of the same subject: something has one or more things in common with something else.

How about,

(Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player ... )

Simile - life is like a candle that burns quickly out

Metaphore - life is but a brief candle

Symbol - Out, out, brief candle!

Parable - While walking along the road from Jerusalem to Galilee, I met a man carrying a lighted candle ...

Analogy - Shakespeare's candle was ignited by his grammar school and burned brightly during his brief career, providing bright light to illuminate the dramatic world and heating London stages, the smoke rising to the heavens as did his soul,...

Allusion - Title of poem by Robert Frost: "Out, Out--"


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 13, 2006 01:50PM

Here's another poem which demonstrates at least a couple of Hugh's terms:

Crossing the Bar
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For through from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.


Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: ns (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 06:14AM


Thanks for this post, Marty.
A lot of studying, reading, and understanding to be done based on the replies to this post.
Thanks.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Debutant (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 11:13AM

The reason I think and say that using symbols in poetry is much richer than metaphor, and works at a deeper level is the richness of the symbols we as the reader apply those symbols. And that richness is our own, not the authors.

With a metaphor, the author is say well, it is kind of like this and you try to see it in his way.

But with a symbol, he say it is this, and gives you a few clues as to what this is.
Then you put in this feelings/exeperience in this symbol and that experience/feelings in that symbol and get your own experience of a poetry, all your own which may or may not be the same as the author.


If your rose is just a plain red flower - though luck.
If your rose is pink and voluptous and has red lips and stilletos, and black tights to go with it, you'll continue to enjoy poems with symbols.
If your worm is like that of a maggot - maybe you should stick to metaphors and simile.
If your worm is a penis with certain girth and length and colour, you'll be worshipping Blake.
And if you think the worm also belong to Satan - you have potential to a symbolic poet.


Here is another explanation of The sick Rose
[www.sparknotes.com] />
Take your pick including your own, or retain all versions.


Here is an interpretation of Sunflower, and enjoy another experience.
[www.capjewels.com] />

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 03/14/2006 11:42AM by Debutant.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 12:15PM

Here is another explanation of The sick Rose
[www.sparknotes.com]

Here is an interpretation of Sunflower, and enjoy another experience.
[www.capjewels.com]


Thanks. That shows one of the dangers of using symbol rather than the simpler forms of simile and/or metaphor: the likelyhood the message will be misinterpreted!

Is that necessarily a bad thing? Your call.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 01:20PM

I think the main difference is that with most metaphors we do know the "tenor" or "tertium comparationis" (the third part of the comparison). This third part may be very obvious, or not obvious at all. The most obvious and overused metaphors turn into cliches. The trick is to make them as new and original as possible, while not forgetting its main objective (which is to say something about the first object).

A symbol on the other hand is far more elusive. If with a metaphor we know what the third part of the comparison is (even though we might not have a ready word for it), with symbols this third part is not codifiable, in the sense that it is beyond purely rational understanding. It is the irrational, often ambivalent nature that gives it this "deeper level".

But. As writers try to come up with more and more original metaphors, the more elusive they sometimes get. And not very rational at all. So IMO the clear cut line between the two can get pretty fuzzy. "Out, out, brief candle!" would IMO in most cases still qualify as a metaphor. But I think the context is of vital importance.

The Asphodel in W.C.W.'s long poem bearing the same name could be seen as a symbol. Or the sea and the garden (in the same poem). Or the sea in Baudelaire's L'Homme et la mer (Man and the Sea), or the albatross in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Etc. It is impossible to say exactly what they mean, although one can feel it, understand it - in one's own way, of course, intuitively (without having any decisive arguments for it).

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/14/2006 01:27PM by Veronika.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 14, 2006 01:34PM

Perhaps one of my favorite works based on a myriad of symbols is Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath".


Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 01:41PM

or Portnoy's novel, "The Grapes of Roth"


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 02:00PM

I wanted to repost the poem Two Bodies or Dos cuerpos (posted in the HA section) by Octavio Paz, since the metaphors he uses are pretty ambivalent (and not at all similar to what I describe as a metaphor). But I don't want to post it without crediting the translator and I can't find his or her name anywhere. A lot of people translated Paz, so it would be nice to know who did this one. Can anyone help?

Anyhow, I think surrealism is another thing that ought to be mentioned. Surrealist metaphors don't have to be tied to this reality or logic or any sort of rational thinking. So my definition of what a symbol is becomes rather shaky.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/14/2006 02:01PM by Veronika.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 03:22PM

Octavio Paz

Wouldn't that translate as Peaces of Eight?

Yo ho ho !


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 03:24PM

Veronika, give credit to that anonymous or animosity guy

I'm curious to see it.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Debutant (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 05:43PM

Veronika has highlighted that even in metaphor the meaning can be elusive.

The choice between metaphors and symbol for the poet I think is rather more clear cut, in the sense that he/she could not convery the multitude of meanings he wanted with a metaphor. He would have tried to pin down what he wanted to say with a metaphor and found its limitation. His objective in a poem is to give as clearly as possible the exact message he wants to convey.
The scope of what he want to say cannot be fufilled by a metaphor and he resorts to a symbol not by choice but by necessity.

The misinterpretation is beyond the poet's control. He knows that given what he wants to say, he can only be sure that he has written clearly enough that there will be enough knowledgeble people who will understand it as he meant it.

From my own very limited experience I start up from the very begining knowing that I had to use a symbol to achieve what I wanted. Someting I wrote recently.

A Comic Life

Whilst the Bugs Bunnys, chewing their anxiety carrots,
In Wall Street,
And Huey, Dewey and Louie and their sand shovels
In Johanníburg
Grow into Elmer Fudds, ever
Grunging: rabid.
The most of us whoíre Spiderman's fragile,
Peter Parkers,
Eventually grow into Magoos, ever
Looking for our shoes.


Moments III

When Sisyphus shakes his head at my task,
And Nero lures me to hear his harp,
I re-call Dulcinea! in my heart.


note: Dulcinea - Lady of Don Quixote.

I think when Sara Teasdale begin to write her poem, "THE LONG HILL", she already decide she wanted to use a symbols.
It would be totally different poem if she had decided to use metaphors.

I think if Sare had decide to write another in metaphor the two would be the difference between the sun (symnbolic) and the moon( metaphor).








Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 03/14/2006 06:17PM by Debutant.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 14, 2006 08:10PM

You bring up a very good point, Debutant. One that beginning writers should probably keep in mind, and that is; in order to use poetic conventions such as those being discussed in this thread, one needs to PLAN what they are going to write. Stream of consciousness does not lend itself well to symbolism.

I mention this only because I find that on the USP there is much writing which is based solely on this style of writing which just lets words fall where they may.


Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 14, 2006 08:28PM

Here, this one is LOADED:

-YEAH-

Puddles of liver shrink in the sun
the instruments, it seems, were navigational
never so edible but how they glisten
shine and breathe and listen

The shrill ache of the bounded bones
dig in like membraneous angles
longing to hear the junebugs dance
where beadyeyed daisies grow....

but stay bereft of the Jordan's flow
much like confusing azaleas show
they threw out the mayor in the snow
and mis-spelled destroyevski

Can halfbaked tanks stay docile?
clothesless and calm before the tempest
tedious heat in a hired hand
swirling swirling swirling

Oh liquid philosophy, fit like love
glyphs intertwined so jump for joy
The air's pretty lofty and thin up here
but does it affect the diceroll ?


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Debutant (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 15, 2006 07:42AM

There is also the safety of using symbols:

1) In times of political, religious or many other types of intellectual persecution. When hauled before the inquisitions. They could just say, "m'lord is reading too much into it". This happens alot.

2)The poet just want only the erudite of soceity know what he is saying and not be mock by the masses.

3)Some poets just cannot bear to reveal their innermost feeling to all and sunder. They would not have written it at all, if they cannot write it with a double meaning.

And there is always the vainglorios poet that wants to show that they can write a poem which has a litteral meaning as well as a deeper meaning.
These are some of the reasons that I can come up with, why a poet choses symbols other than for "poetic" criteria - persecution, witticism, a need for privacy.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 15, 2006 09:00AM

"m'lord is reading too much into it".
Sort of like a back-up plan, eh, Debutant?

If they say it is this, I'll say that. If they say it is that, I'll say this.
I'm beginning to think that simple similes and metaphors are ok too.

Hugh says>That shows one of the dangers of using symbol rather than the simpler forms of simile and/or metaphor: the likelyhood the message will be misinterpreted!

Is that necessarily a bad thing? Your call.

Debutant's poem, Moments III, is what got me going on the subject and maybe because of more than just the "symbolism" therein. I think it a combination of saying much in few words, the absence of (alterior sp?) motive, the absence of making a "point" or a "judgement", but rather sharing an observation or experience in a way that is not "usual" and "customary" with everyday language.

Although the symbolism (vehicle) itself might be obscure to those of us lacking immediate knowledge or recall, the "tenor" is not. I think the tenor is the most important element and the reason for making the poem in the first place. We can look up the symbolism in a book, but there's no easy reference to an experience, except personal experience. To tap into an experience that can be felt by most, but say it in a way that few to none would ever say it, makes poetry or "art" me thinks.

Marty





Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 15, 2006 12:02PM

I believe the secret is to get the reader's mind to leap to the identical idea that is in the writer's thoughts. For example, a line in a poem such as,

Dusk is more lovely than the dawn.

How much extra information would the writer have to provide in order for the reader to identify dusk with dying and dawn with birth? Or, could the reader be expected to infer it just from the symbols as given?

And, in point of fact, is dusk really more lovely than dawn? Sunsets viewed from across a body of water are quite spectacular, but are they more so than the dawning of a brand new day? Or, is this point moot to the discussion, since we are merely trying to provoke a (correct) response?


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 15, 2006 01:20PM

It'd be so much easier
if they just said
Life is ok
but I'd rather be dead


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Debutant (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 15, 2006 01:40PM

The information would be from the lines leading to this line or further lines after the line. To give clues as to what he is writing about.

In this case we are supposed to extract the loveliness in dusk to tie in with dying: the slow descent of the sun, its last glorious glow etc.
It is also a true statement of fact, when he does compared it to his birth, which he knows hardly anything about, not even the first smack on the bottom.

Now we do really "experience" how the writer wants us to see it!


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Debutant (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 16, 2006 05:39AM

Marty, they are poets they don't want to be martyrs..lol

Illicit lovers who wrote poems to each other also code their messages in symbols, in case they get caught.

I maybe now be trying to exaggerate the values and effects of symbolic poems, but there is some element of truth in it.

Sometimes reading a symbolic poem is like reading a Japanese Koan, the most familiar of which is:

"The sound of one hand clapping"

The idea of the koan is to engender enlightenment, whereas in symbolic poem it is to awaken the consciousness to another level of experience. There are parallels between the two.

In the koan there is the mundane message which tries to create a transcendental experience.
In a symbolic poem there is the literal message which tries create a deep experience and both require a shift of viewpoints.

Here is a simple poem by an emuler which illustrate the point, beautifully.

Grandma's Rose

Awaiting you, like Spring
Precious one.

Preparing for your arrival
With a gardener's care.

Grow and bloom
Color our world.

There is the literal message about a rose.
Now if you shift the viewpoint and associate the author as grandma and the rose as her grand daughter, yet to arrive, you have a new deep experience.
BTW the poem is written by Marty.

Again with:

Dusk is more lovely than the dawn

One has to shift one's view point to that of the author to gain his experience.




Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/16/2006 08:32AM by Debutant.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 16, 2006 07:00PM

Thank you kindly, Debutant.

Grand daughter? Do you know something I don't? After the last 25 years of being surrounded by all men/boys in the family, a grand daughter would be delightful, but ofcourse a healthy child of either gender is all we are praying for..."Dear God, please just send us a healthy child, but if you want to make it a girl, that would be ok too."

I wonder how "koan" compares to "parable". When time allows, I must consult the link Les provided to explore it.

Thanks to all who have contributed to an interesting and insightful conversation.
Debutant, take it easy and have a good break from poetry and the mule. See you when you get back.

Marty


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Yuri (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 23, 2006 01:03PM

Marty,

you wrote:

It is my understanding that it (symbolism) takes a poem to a higher level than simile or metaphor.

If we assume that the true poetry comes down from some above source of inspiration and the task of the poet just to transmit what comes without distortion, than the sentense above makes not much sense. If a simbol
comes, it's OK. If it dose not and a poet try to insert it, it will be an artificial construction and poetry will just refuse to live in such a house.

Nothing of elements of external form can make poetry higher or lower.
The point is whether this form was born puerly as the result of inspiration
and how much the poet has distorted the original inspiration, trying
to express it. That is all.

Yuri


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: March 23, 2006 01:34PM

I thank my freshman lit. prof. Lola Johnson for warning us not to read too much into anything. She said, sometimes a hill is just a hill and every stout tree, is nothing but a tree.


Les


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 23, 2006 01:40PM

Well Iím not dumb but I canít understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 23, 2006 10:24PM

Yuri,

Thank you for your comments. I do agree with you while also wanting to grow as a poet. Life happens and poetry happens. I do believe there are choices and decisions that can be made in both, however, that affect outcomes and enhance quality without compromising authenticity. The trick (task) is learning what they are. We can learn from our own experiences (sometimes we don't and just keep doing things the same way), by watching others (no guarantee you'll be able to "see" how they get things to turn out the way they do), or by asking those who demonstrate a certain level of accomplishment, "How did you do that?"

There can be two singers with equally good singing voices, but one's song more beautiful or compelling than the other. It can be something as simple as thinking about someone they love when they sing a love song.

Two people can be equally hard workers earning the same amount of pay with one struggling to make ends meet while the other lives well. It can be something as simple as packing a lunch every day instead of eating out.

If each of these follow the advice of the other and their song or the quality of their lives improve, have they fabricated or "distorted" anything? Perhaps I'm rationalizing or just rambling, but wanted to share my thoughts on the subject.

Les,

sometimes a hill is just a hill and every stout tree, is nothing but a tree.

"Sometimes" is the key word. "Always", "never", and "every" are the ones that can get us into trouble.

Johnny,

...or walked like a man and talked like a woman?




Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Yuri (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 24, 2006 04:14AM

Maty,

you wrote:

If each of these follow the advice of the other and their song or the quality of their lives improve, have they fabricated or "distorted" anything?

My comment was on the point that using simbols makes the level of poetry higher.

I have nothing against advice and learning, but poetry and life in the
above context so different domains that the advice how to improve your
life me be at times miraculously effective, at the same time the advice how
to improve your poetry mainly may work only for technique of the verse.
But you must agree it's nearly nothing. By the way the perfect technique
can come by itself with the flow of inspiration.
The matter is: if a person cannot see himself (herself) none can explain why
for instance these simple, nearly bare lines are full of poetry or even
great poetry and this poem, full of opulent images and original
metaphors is not more than a mind fabrication.
The words that one must get access to the high source of inspiration
and not to distort what comes down are of very little help. It's very
difficult, nearly impossible to explain the practical side of the matter.
To learn how to do it is the whole discipline, meditation if you like.
Of cause, if you are a born poet you have all that at your disposal spontaneously.

To read good poetry and good comments on it can help no doubts.
For instance if an expert says this line one of the greatest
in all literature and we just cannot see it at all why it's so and would skip it, we can read it again and again, meditate on it and may be some day we will begin to feel something...
Comments on our poetry can help too, but the gift to feel and appreciate
poetry perfectly perhaps as rare as the gift to write it! :-)
So one must not too easily take to heart good words or bad words of our
poetry. One must develop his (her) own ability to discern.

I am writing all that by no means to discourage you but to make some
points clear.

Yuri

PS As you see I cannot do without giving advices on poetry himself. :-)


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Marty (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 24, 2006 08:45AM

I really do agree, Yuri, and find your "advice" comforting, not discouraging.

Being true to one's self is perhaps at times more difficult than being true to another; and being true to one's own inspiration means having faith in the inspiration itself. If we believe that the inspiration comes from a power greater than ourselves, it stands to reason that we must have faith in a higher power to have faith in the inspiration.

I'm not sure about the meditating part because it is a word that implies a purposeful "action" to me, involving one's own "will". We can talk ourselves into anything, if we think on it long enough. Meditating has always seemed an arrogant activity to me, as if the spirits are being called at the convenience of the meditator.

Praying, on the other hand, especially that "Thy Will be done" is to me, an expression of "patience" and "acceptance" of things happening in God's own way and time. What I hear you saying in your comments, is that it better to "accept" the poetry the way it arrives.

Again, thank you for the discussion. Have a great day!

Marty


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: Yuri (192.168.128.---)
Date: March 24, 2006 03:13PM


Marty,

you wrote:

"I'm not sure about the meditating part because it is a word that implies a purposeful "action" to me, involving one's own "will". We can talk ourselves into anything, if we think on it long enough. Meditating has always seemed an arrogant activity to me, as if the spirits are being called at the convenience of the meditator."


Meditation as a term is used very widely nowadays and connected with a lot of misunderstandings. Perhaps because it's Oriental in origin and westerners,
having no direct experience of real meditation try to interpret it as they
like.

There may be a lot of different kinds of meditations, what I meant here was
to make one's mind pure and silent, best of all empty of any thought(accessible
to not so many people) and aspire for something higher to descend.
It is very much alike a silent praying. Why a prayer cannot be silent?

Of cause, "Let Thy Will be done" is the best prayer, but if you are going
to do something for Him, you may ask something more definite. Why not?

"What I hear you saying in your comments, is that it better to "accept" the poetry the way it arrives. Ľ

I did not express this explicitly, but I think I meant exactly this idea.

Yuri


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: MoonBabe (192.168.128.---)
Date: April 11, 2006 11:35PM

Here's a great example of symbolism in a poem, as well as metaphor and the fact that this poem---and pardon the pun---is an extended metaphor also.

Lisa



THE SHIPFITTERíS WIFE by Dorianne Laux

I loved him most
when he came home from work,
his fingers still curled from fitting pipe,
his denim shirt ringed with sweat
and smelling of salt, the drying weeds
of the ocean. Iíd go to where he sat
on the edge of the bed, his forehead
anointed with grease, his cracked hands
jammed between his thighs, and unlace
the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles
and calves, the pads and bones of his feet.
Then Iíd open his clothes and take
the whole day inside meó the shipís
gray sides, the miles of copper pipe,
the voice of the foreman clanging
off the hullís silver ribs. Spark of lead
kissing metal. The clamp, the winch,
the white fire of the torch, the whistle,
and the long drive home.


Re: Symbolism in Poetry
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: April 12, 2006 02:47AM

I prefer this one by Robert Burns, though it does exhibit signs of physical abuse.

John Barleycorn: A Ballad

There was three kings unto the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show'rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris'd them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel arm'd wi' pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter'd mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show'd he bagan to fail.

His colour sicken'd more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They've taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell'd him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn'd him o'er and o'er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him further woe;
And still, as signs of life appear'd,
They toss'd him to and fro.

They wasted, o'er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.

And they hae taen his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
'Twill make your courage rise.

'Twill make a man forget his woe;
'Twill heighten all his joy;
'Twill make the widow's heart to sing,
Tho' the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne'er fail in old Scotland!

Les

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/12/2006 02:54AM by lg.




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