Saturday, April 23, 2011

#113 / Metaphor #3

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, in my Post #111, New York Times Columnist David Brooks is breaking new ground, and is tackling new topics. Metaphors, for instance. As you can see, I'm no slouch, either. Here I am "tackling" topics and "breaking ground" with the best of them.

In the headline to his column published in the San Jose Mercury News on April 13th, Brooks calls metaphors "Poetry For Everyday Life."

This April 13th column, to which I have just linked, talks about classifying the kinds of metaphors we use in different situations. Relationships, says Brooks, tend to be described by "health" metaphors: we speak of "sick" relationships and "healthy" marriages.

But what about "broken" marriages and "healthy" appetites? And what about "stale" relationships? Food metaphors are supposed to be used to describe the world of ideas, not relationships, according to the system of categorization that Brooks is using. Ideas get "stale," too, but marriages and relationships are commonly characterized by the use of this "food" metaphor.

I don't think that categorizing kinds of metaphors is "where it's at," to quote one of my favorite cliches-made-new from Bob Dylan's song, Positively Fourth Street. I also don't think you can become a "genius" by looking up metaphors in a book, and then using them to impress your girlfriend or your boss. If you'd like to buy the book, though, just click on the image. It's got "1000's of Metaphors."

I think the headline of Brooks' column may be better than the attempt at categorization, in helping us to understand what metaphors are, and how they work. Metaphors are the poetry of life - and I'd say of both elevated and everyday life. Both of those descriptors have some metaphorical overtones, by the way, at least to my ear.

Metaphor is generative. It's the poetry that not only describes life, but helps us make life. We "create" realities out of the materials at hand, and make them new with metaphor, exactly the way a poet does. It is just like Bob Dylan with his dazzling cliches, which make us marvel, when they are set to music; or like that "other" Dylan, the one from the British Isles I mentioned a couple of issues back.

With respect to that "other" Dylan, he does go on a lot about sex. That's a"fertile" field in which to dig for metaphorical materials. If you want to be tickled, just read the poem.

Man be my metaphor!

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