Second Thoughts: A Dim Light in a Dark Room

In class, we spoke of the many ways to define poetry. One quote from A.R. Ammons says, “a poem is a walk.” Though it is short, it is heavy with meaning. A poem is a pathway of language forged by words. It looks at poetry as an action, as though the act of poetics is a tangible thing. Poetry has always felt more like an art form to me, something you do as a way to express yourself through written word. I felt as though writing is an exercise, something you must do over and over again until you think you have perfected it, and then you do it all again. Though poetry was a separate form of writing that didn’t need much consideration in terms of structure. I could grasp poetry through the lens of hermeneutics, that interpretation was a vital part of a poem’s biology. I didn’t know how the structure was equally as important.

The metaphor is vital to this structure. If we are to think about it in terms of the systems that make up a human body, it is like the cardiovascular system in that it enables the movement from within the lines, bringing life and meaning through the veins of the poem. Metaphors give us ways to interpret the poem, it is the dim lamp flickering in a dark room, providing some semblance of common ground between us and the author. Even here I am using metaphor; almost all of us know what it is like to turn a lamp on in a dark room and have it illuminate the space around it, peeling back shadows so that we may precariously make our way through the dark without stubbing our toe on something sharp. We can apply that to the metaphor itself, and allow the reader to understand that a metaphor functions like this; like a light in the dark illuminating that path towards meaning. 

Coincidentally, the path of light in the dark can be traced back to the quotation by A.R. Ammons, “A poem is a walk.” The metaphor is the trail and the poem is the walk, or it could be the poem is the trail and the metaphors the walk. That is the thing with poetry is sometimes metaphors align with the meaning and sometimes it gets lost in translation, which is often the case with my own writing. That is why poetry is more physical than I once thought, it is a laborious action that is never finished. One of my professors last semester told me that a poet can edit their poem a hundred times and it will never be done, even the ones that are one or two sentences long. While their structure is unique to the form, it is still nevertheless an athletic endeavor.

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