Thursday, December 22, 2011
(Jazz at Tacoma Station by Joseph Holston, American
Cubist Abstractionist artist)
In our study of the sonnet this month, we have noted several times that rules or restrictions can encourage creativity.
Two corollaries follow from that: rules are meant to be broken, but you have to know the rules before you can break them creatively.
One rule governing the use of metaphors is to avoid mixing them. Combining two elements that are incongruous only confuses the reader.
But even that rule can be broken, in the hands of a skilled poet. A famous example of the effective use of mixed metaphors is found in Hamlet’s soliloquy:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to. . . .
Similarly, the sonnet below succeeds despite its blatant mixing of metaphors.
Guess what. If love is only chemistry —
phenylethylamine, that molecule
that dizzies up the brain’s back room, smoky
with hot bebop, it won’t be long until
a single worker’s mopping up the scuffed
and littered floor, whistling tunelessly,
each endorphin cooling like a snuffed
glass candle, the air stale with memory.
So what, you say; outside, a shadow lifts
a trumpet from its case, lifts it like an ingot
and scatters a few virtuosic riffs
toward the locked-down stores. You’ve quit
believing that there’s more, but you’re still stirred
enough to stop, and wait, listening hard.
~ Kim Addonizio, born 1954, American poet, novelist, and writer of guides to composing poetry