Friday, July 24, 2009

Don Domanski and metaphor

I've just read Canadian poet Don Domanski's Ralph Gustafson lecture Poetry and the Sacred, published as a beautiful hand-stitched chapbook. As I was recently thinking about metaphor while reading Ghosh's Sea of Poppies and Dickens' David Copperfield, I thought I'd quote Domanski on metaphor. Noting that language can act as an impediment to reaching a pre-verbal or beyond-verbal knowledge, he says of metaphor that it

is one way to re-establish our relationship with the textual possibilities; it
sidesteps many of the pitfalls that lock language in a low, weak orbit around
the individual. If the cliché that poetry allows us to see with fresh eyes is
true, metaphor, to paraphrase [Dominican mystic Meister] Eckhart, is the eye
that both the world and the poet use to see each other. It creates sight where
there was none; it releases us to new expectations. Reality shifts and we are
carried along with the movement. "Metaphor," to quote Cynthia Ozick, "is the
mind's opposable thumb." It allows us to grasp meaning in one of the mind's
darkest places, in that gap between the meanings themselves, in that fissure
created by polarities, where light falls to blackness. To find the connection
between dissimilar things is to place a flame there. In that deep chasm lies the
consecrated space, the sacred ground of all spiritual traditions. The poet can
bring back to our modern consciousness much of what has been lost during our
journey towards mechanized existence. From the pilgrimages poets make, we are
reminded of the heart's great need for wonder, its longing for a transpersonal
dimension in our lives. Inside each of us is a desire for expansion outside of
our ordinary self, to extend our understanding of nature, the universe and other
people. Poetry is one way that this can be realized.

Domanski closed his lecture by reading one of his poems, "All Our Wonder Unavenged," which is also included in the chapbook, and from it, I'll close this post with a stanza that harbours one of the most captivating metaphors I've come across lately, one I think of many evenings now, as the sun begins to set . . .

late afternoon and the western sun-door still ajar
some hours to go before it

shadow hours
for the food gatherers to return to their mounds
for chickadees to follow their old ways

fables without end

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