The realm of figurative language has the potential to add layers of meaning to your poetry and prose – and yes, to your day-to-day conversations.
One of the more common definitions for the word, “metaphor”, is what Dictionary.com lists as its second entry: “something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else.” An example of this usage could be something as simple as “Your feet smell like fish; therefore they are fish!” Thus a metaphor is born.
Now close your eyes and imagine someone you know with fish for feet. . .What an image that brings to mind. Add in an ocean swell, sea anemones, the Sea Witch, a pier, a few selkies and surfers, and you may have quite the painting hanging in the gallery of your mind.
Then there’s this etymological definition of metaphor from the Online Etymology Dictionary: metaphor (n.) late 15c., from Middle French metaphore (Old French metafore, 13c.), and directly from Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphora “a transfer,” especially of the sense of one word to a different word, literally “a carrying over,” from metapherein “transfer, carry over; change, alter; to use a word in a strange sense,” from meta- “over, across” (see meta-) + pherein “to carry, bear.”
I particularly like the addition of “alter. . .in a strange sense.” But what is strange to one person isn’t to another! Free-association is an excellent way to play with this and to step into creative mode. What, for example, are the first words that pop into your mind after each of the following nouns?
But what if we take this a step further, or perhaps delve deeper? If you consider that the word, “meta”, which has its origins in Ancient Rome, circa 1571-1580, according to Dictionary.com, is “a column or post, or a group of columns or posts, [is] placed at each end of a racetrack to mark the turning places.” Consider the metaphor inherent in this definition as well as how it could be applied to a poem. In addition to providing support, columns outline, or otherwise define and mark space, don’t they? When the existence of a racetrack is added, it implies that there is the possibility for a race, or races. There is an intention, or a purpose, for this space thus defined. Apply this to a poem and what might you unfurl? Centurions and bloody battles? Or, a race for meaning-making and meaning-finding?
Then there’s the matter of the other meanings, also available at dictionary.com that relate to being self-referential. While this technique occurs often with parodies and other comedic work, it can also be used in other, more serious scenarios.
Consider the uses of metaspace. . .until next time!