Ya know something? I think it might have been providential that I chose to pick up Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and write about overcoming writer's block yesterday. You see, I've been experiencing a little writer's block of my own. There are about five poems in my head that I just can't seem to write. And much it very well might have to do with the fact that I simply haven't let the several emotions I associate with recent experiences root themselves deeply in my mind. Goldberg certainly gave me the nudge that I needed, to pick up my pen and try again...
However, one of the things that I struggle with most in my writing is finding appropriate, original metaphors, and sometimes it seems that I stuggle with this no matter how fresh an idea is or how familiar. I admire most the poets whose metaphors take you by surprise, so perfectly do they describe an object or an emotion in terms that are unique or unexpected. One such poet is Robert Wrigley, whose poem "Finding a Bible in an Abandoned Cabin" is beautiful in it's poignant description of antiquity and decay.
You can read the poem HERE
Wrigley uses some captivating metaphors in this poem. Take for instance, the metaphor describing a layer of dust as being "plush as a moth's wing," and the frigid cold as a "back-of-the-neck lick of chill." Such singular metaphors instantly give the reader very specific sensory impressions. We can almost feel the plush and the icy tongue of cold Wrigley describes. My absolute favorite metaphor in this poem comes at the end, where Wrigley gives an evocative description of the decayed and worm eaten pages of a Bible: "In the autumn light, eight-hundred pages of perfect, wordless lace." In this line, the metaphor is strikingly visual.
I want to write like this. But certainly, if Goldman is correct in emphasizing the importance of patience, her advice counts double for writers attempting to craft metaphors that achieve this level of artistic expression. I think it's fair to say that Wrigley succeeds in creating an emotional climate and an impression of larger, philosophical forces at work on the symbolic by focusing in on the minute details of his environment.
I think that to achieve my goals in poetry, I need to slow down. I move too fast, and while I might give deliberate thought to the "big stuff," like fear, sorrow, or the ecstacy of being in love, I don't often stop to think about the small things, like the textures of everyday objects or the ways I respond to basic sensory experiences, like the cold that Wrigley describes. I need to slow down. Observe. Re-work standard definitions of things.