Metaphor With Silvia Hartmann
Confused or mystified about metaphor, simile, poetry and language? Need homework help on poems and metaphors? Is it all too much like standing in the middle of an enchanted realm but someone's tied your eyes shut and you just can't find the knot to undo? Don't despair! Here's a really short, easy and simple 12 point mini-course on all things metaphorical!
Need Help On Poems & Metaphors?
Confused about metaphor, simile, poetry and language?
Here is a simple 12 Point Crash Course On:
Metaphors, Poems, Language & Life
by Dr Silvia Hartmann
1. What is a metaphor? | 2. Words & metaphors | 3. Combining metaphors | 4. One reality, many metaphors | 5. Simile metaphor translations | 6. Life metaphors, hard metaphors, and metaphors of life | 7. Metaphor poems and metaphor poetry | 8. Metaphor choice, divergence points, and metaphor domains | 9. Advantages of metaphor and metaphor poetry | 10. Metaphor domains, metaphor worlds | 11. Uses For metaphors | 12. Examples of metaphors, poems and funny metaphors.
Let's get started!
To understand metaphor, in poems or not, you need to know the following:
There is a REALITY (really real, happening, absolutely) and then there are DESCRIPTIONS OF REALITY (words, or symbols, pictures, music - anything that HUMAN BEINGS MAKE AND DO).
Of course. You can't get a REAL cat in through your ears, no more than I can make one come out of my mouth. The word "cat" IS A METAPHOR for an existing creature that lives, breathes and scratches.
There are different ways in which people agree to communicate in societies. One form of the use of metaphor is by assigning a piece of reality to a sound, then writing the sound down and you get - CAT.
You can combine such sounds and get REPRESENTATION OF REALITY as in,
"The ginger cat walks in the garden."
EVERY WORD IN THAT SENTENCE IS A METAPHOR.
In the communication form usually CALLED "a metaphor" you use a word, or a combination of words, to describe further attributes and assign meanings to something. Here it gets very emotional. If you like cats, you could say instead of "The ginger cat walked in the garden,":
The golden queen flowed through her paradise.
Poetic, isn't it?
Each metaphor word is simply replaced by ANOTHER word that is just as real in its own way.
If you didn't like cats, you might like to say metaphorically instead:
The satanic monster stalked evilly across the darkened landscape.
Communicating in the most basic form of abstraction, making a SIMILE to an existing word and using that instead of the original one, is easy and anyone can do it.
Here are a few more examples of such simple similes (which are still words, and metaphors, of course!):
"The boy stood on the street corner."
"The gang banger loitered with intent near the gutter."
"The lonely child waited beneath the street lamp."
"The little angel appeared under the orb of gold."
If you cross these over with evil intent, you get mind boggling "metaphor poetry" and might even win prizes for it:
"The lonely angel loitered with intent of love ..."
It's just PLAYING with taking any old metaphor and sticking it haphazardly on ACTUAL REALITY any which way you want!
Metaphors are absolutely everywhere, and they are EVERY THING.
A big red sports car with a 12 cylinder engine is strictly NOT "just a car".
It's a metaphor for being young, virile, masculine and successful.
Wearing your trousers round your ankles and Tshirts 12 times the size of your body is also not "practical dress". It's a metaphor for being ... what?
Just WHO wears high heeled red stillettos and WHAT are they trying to SAY with that? WHAT do others who see that THINK immediately?
Check it out.
Life metaphors are huge domains that can rule an entire incarnation. Ever seen an old woman with pink ribbons in her hair who is still playing at being "the little princess"? You got to be careful with the real big ones. You can get trapped inside and never get out - and spend your entire life trapped inside the domain of the gangsta, the mum, the worker, the hippie ... ouch.
Cars, houses, hairstyles, jewellry, tattoes, EVERYTHING IS A METAPHOR FOR SOMETHING. Remember that about metaphors. They are NOT REAL but they TRY AND DESCRIBE something that is.
*All* poetry is metaphor so to even say that something is a metaphor poem is like saying you've got a water fish. Or a wooden tree. It's redundant, really.
What people actually MEAN when they use the term metaphor is a level of abstraction whereby one reality occurrence is TRANSPOSED onto another reality occurrence and you get a cohesive movie emerging that writes itself.
For example, with our cat in the garden, if we transpose cat to queen as I did in that example, now ALL THE THINGS that apply to queens get applied to cats.
cat = queen
fur = silk dress
tail = train of the dress
paws = dainty feet, clad in wondrous silk slippers, with pearls on.
grass = courtroom carpets of luscious colours and golden weaves.
garden = majestic courtroom with chandeliers
mice = ambassadors from foreign countries, shivering with fear
.... and so on and so on.
All you need to do to make the most rampant, complicated metaphors imaginable, and to make them easily, is to pick your starting point of transfer.
Let's say you want to make a metaphor poem about a mother and two children eating breakfast cereal in their kitchen.
Start with one aspect and set the transfer in motion.
Mother = ?
General? Queen? Lioness? Witch?
The rest unfolds itself:
Mother = witch
children = apprentice witches
cereal bowl = cauldron
breakfast table = tree stump
kitchen = hovel in the wood
You can write and say anything with a metaphor that you wouldn't want to or can't when you use the least direct form of human communication, that of the straight metaphor words.
For example, I might like to write a poem about feeling like shit.
It would go something like this:
I feel terrible today.
My head hurts, I'm angry and I don't want to get out of bed.
I really don't want to deal with my work and all that today.
The transposition gives you any choice you want to pick.
I = ?
Tree, fish, sunrise, curtain, tea cup, guitar.
The first line then transposes across into the metaphorical realm (the DOMAIN of the metaphor) of the thing you've chosen:
The tree trembled in the storm
The fish lay at the bottom of the tank
The sunrise was swallowed in dark clouds
The guitar was out of tune
The cup was full of stale tea
The curtains hung limply, torn and faded.
It's really the simplest thing ... as long as you remember to STAY INSIDE THE DOMAIN OF A METAPHOR once you made that original divergence choice.
Unless you want to come off like a schizophrenic who will actually say things like:
"I am a guitar which is half full of stale tea and hangs limply at the bottom of a fish tank."
Some people call that being "creative with metaphors" but it's really just mixing metaphors to the point where other people's heads hurt.
You can't use metaphor correctly at all without understanding metaphor domains.
A metaphor (in the usual language and linguistics usage) COMES FROM SOMEWHERE and IS LINKED INTO ITS OWN DOMAIN.
It doesn't make any sense OUTSIDE of its own domain.
To understand it, you don't just need the WORD but you need all the bits that are a part of ITS WORLD.
In the example of the kitchen witch, ONE switch in one part, mother to witch, immediately changes the ENTIRE DOMAIN and all its aspects as chairs become three legged stools, forks become pitchforks and the family cat becomes a devil's familiar.
This doesn't make metaphors more difficult to understand but the opposite, it makes it INCREDIBLY EASY to unfold seemingly incredibly complicated metaphors and extended metaphors, even if they go on for entire books, and even if you have many domains with their metaphors inside.
The metaphor domain also sets the rules of the whole world.
Some things can happen in one domain, but not in another.
If the mother is a mother, she can't make the chairs fly or turn the kids into toads - but the witch can. If she is a general, she can order them about and have them stand to attention - but that makes NO SENSE AT ALL in any of the other domains.
So in the act of switching a metaphor, and especially an expanded metaphor, from one domain to another, you get to find out about the restrictions of ANY ONE DOMAIN - you learn new things, in other words, and you learn how metaphors LIMIT behaviour and understanding.
This is WHY poets and clever people LOVE METAPHOR so much. It's a learning device that gets you CLOSER to understanding the relationship between real reality and the symbols we use to describe it.
If you understand metaphor as being ALL attempts of humans to describe their experiences with REAL REALITY, the world's your oyster.
The bible, for example, is full of metaphor. Metaphors about "God" (and what is that, exactly, when it is at home?), "angels", "devils" and "demons", lilies in the field and camels going through the eyes of needles.
This last one is a good example. The eye of the needle is a metaphorical linguistic description for a narrow doorway they used to have in the olden days when cities had walls and doors that were locked at night to keep the robbers out. You could get in at night through those narrow doors (eyes of the needle) but you had to unpack your camel first, take it through, then come back for the luggage.
Every metaphor has at the bottom of it some form of ACTUAL REALITY.
If you understand this, you can:
1. decode and decipher metaphors directly by trying to track back to the reality they came from;
2. write endless metaphor stories about EVERYTHING in reality by picking a metaphor and its domain;
3. understand how all language is metaphor, and CHOOSE YOUR LEVEL OF ABSTRACTION from a straight linguistic description to a very abstract representation.
4. represent reality in the other forms of metaphor as well, such as sculputure, music, paintings, symbols, objects and buildings.
5. Lastly, you get to decide what metaphors YOU want to use to describe AND create your reality to YOUR liking. Who wants to be a millionaire? That's a metaphor, of course.
In the Shakespeare metaphor of Hamlet and the poison which was poured into the King's ear, what might that poison be a metaphor for?
Remember the domains. Shakespeare is so famous because he would be so good as to take any old thing, transpose that ordinary thing into a different metaphor domain, and then go MAD inside that metaphor domain with all the things you could do with it.
In the example of the Hamlet story, you are NOT just dealing with that one thing, the poison, but the WHOLE DOMAIN.
King = ?
sleeping = ?
poison = ?
Remember our cat from before?
I bet the garden is the kingdom, and the king is asleep - not paying any attention. I bet the poison poured into his ears is lies. And the punishment for such gross neglect of his environment is death.
There you go.
It goes further though. The King is also the metaphor for the conscious mind inside one single human being. If you fall asleep and cease to pay attention to your environment, you can fall prey to lies that will kill you.
Shakespeare was always a revolutionary ...
This is a metaphor poem, actually for use in hypnosis, where I transposed the domain of "sunrise" to be people, actors.
Don’t mourn the passing of the night,
as night wind gently leaves
her touch is light and intermittent
Night Wind and Dawn's Sweet Lady have become people and all the rest follows like the tumbling domino stones once you start on that track.
Metaphor is INCREDIBLY EASY - as long as you keep the domains together, don't take a scalpel to it or try and chop it up. (Exception - schizophrenic poetry and comedy or funny metaphors).
A painting as the mirror of the invisible parts of a person - a picture of their soul. This is a brilliant metaphor and a warning to all not to rely on what your eyes can see alone, and not to think that you can HIDE your evil thoughts and evil deeds by wearing a mask of youth and innocence.
Your SOUL knows all, remembers all.
Of course, each one of the three main characters in Dorian Grey are an aspect or a metaphor for a PART of Oscar Wilde himself. Each one has their own domain, their own rules and regulations under which they function.
One of the most famous of all funny metaphors is:
A man without a woman is like a fish without a bicycle.
m - w = f - b
The funny twist in this metaphor is that the fish and bicycle are FROM DIFFERENT DOMAINS.
The famous British comedy writer Ben Elton uses a pattern where he reverses the principle by taking the exact same metaphor back upon itself, when we normally expect it to be something different:
In my hallway, there sat a big square box, which was exactly like ... a big, square box.
Mixed metaphors are also funny. The most well known of this is:
They changed horses in mid stream.
The horses have left their domain and are now somewhere in the water, and the whole thing collapses into a hysterical mess.
One politician was heard to say:
We've firmly grasped the nettle by the root and taken it on board.
Oh dear ... :-)
Don't mix your metaphors - unless you do it for a good laugh :-)
So and in conclusion - there's many ways to describe reality.
Metaphor poetry and all metaphorical transcriptions just are a shift where you keep all the components in place but transpose the DOMAIN into another - cat to queen (or devil), I to guitar, tree (or whatever), night winds into people, and people back into night winds.
Then follow along WITHIN the domain and there we have effective, entertaining, inspiring and most of all INTELLIGENT metaphors for INTELLIGENT people - like you!
Metaphor with Silvia Hartmann