March 2016: White Space
Having passed the equinox, we are leaving the "white space" of winter behind… (it may feel more or less like white space depending on where you live and how much the foliage and weather change). This month I am e-mailing you a link to an essay I wrote on white space and metaphor that was published at the Poets Quarterly website last summer. I included language from this essay in some of the lesson units of Mastering Metaphor, but I go a deeper into some of these ideas in the essay. I hope you will find something that is useful to your writing and that you will enjoy looking at some of the quotes and poetry examples. You might also enjoy knowing about the Poets Quarterly website if you don't already, and reading some of the other current or archived articles. Or perhaps you'd like to contribute an article yourself sometime.
The main page is www.poetsquarterly.com and my article is "White Space as Metaphoric Frame."
One thing I will say about the Li-Young Lee quote in the final paragraph of the essay – I know what he means when he says "prose means mostly in one direction" – I believe he is thinking about the way we use grammar and syntax in sentences. And I don't disagree with what he's saying, but I want you to also keep in mind that prose can be expressive on many levels at once, and that it does interact with white space as well (sometimes we aren't as conscious of it in a page of prose, unless something else about the prose challenges our expectations); prose can incorporate many aspects of poetics, which can create layered meaning or "manifold presence." And yes, there is prose poetry – a whole topic unto itself! But I just wanted to emphasize that prose can be expressive in poetic ways, but Lee is making a point about how some of the unique features of poetry can create multifaceted meaning.
I hope you are enjoying spring in your part of the world. As you go about your days, I recommend paying attention to the different kinds of transformation that takes place during a change of season – transformation being something we can also experience through literary metaphor. What metaphors might you be experiencing with your body as you experience spring? Are you experiencing some elements of winter at the same time you're experiencing some elements of high spring? How do you experience that blending of elements? How might you put that down in words or lines?
Happy spring, and I'll be back with another edition of Metaphor and More at the end of April.
Many best wishes,
PS – As always, please let me know if you wish to be taken off the list.
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Jennifer Burd teaches "Mastering Metaphor" through the Loft Literary center and writes a monthly blog, "Metaphor and More."