No. No, you’re not a poet but you didn’t know it; or, what the hell is poetry anyway

I know they’re just trying to connect, to reach out to the strange beast they perceive me as being: poet, or, at least, writer of that strange flora, poetry. But when the next person happens to rhyme as they speak a sentence and then say to me, gleefully, “oh, I must be a poet too!” I’m going to whack ’em.

No, no. All right. I won’t. But what I do need to do is start acknowledging when people make observations in everyday conversation that ARE poetic: when they draw an analogy, use a metaphor or simile, when they make that leaping connection that, I believe, makes poetry its best self.

Did you just say “My neighbor is an old fart”? Poetic! Faintly smelly, not overly offensive, but lingering unpleasantly in your side yard, or even after he departs something remains, something unpleasant just beyond memory or scent or sound? — yes. A lovely analogy.

To see a faraway star clearly, look just to one side of it. This is how poetry works.

Metaphor in poetry is expressing the thing that can’t be expressed by likening it to some other thing, and, in so likening, contains something almost perfect in the gap between the thing and the expression, some spirit that you’ve conjured filling that space and shifting our vision for a moment. If the old fart’s name is Art, well, that’s just a funny thing.



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