More on metaphor.

Two persons I know, who otherwise seem to love
reading, have a fear of poetry. Not exactly a phobia, not in the way Teye is
batrachophobic or the common Filipino politician
seems phronemophobic, but there it is, the furrowing
of the brow and the disclaimer: “Um, I don’t usually get

(I see the ghosts of teachers
past, limned in chalk dust, asking knocking-kneed students to explain “thou
foster-child of silence and slow time” while outside the classroom crumpled test
papers blow in the restless afternoon wind, joining plastic bags and foil packs
that once held orange juice.)

killed poetry, or at least dug its grave and waited for it to hurl itself in.
Novels and short stories and how-to manuals thrived in the print democracy that
rose in his wake. No one had to hang out and munch chicken bones by the village
fire while waiting for the bard to get dressed in a proper codpiece and
stockings. They could just buy the book. If they needed to remember the story,
they could pull the book off the shelf and read it

Poetry took refuge in hoity-toity
unintelligibility, and sadly became the province of the Latin-educated and nobly
born. The limericks of the street were not poetry. How could they be? They
didn’t talk about God and the universe and Grecian urns and women with
lily-white (read: non-field worker) ankles dying of consumption and regret and
too many trips to Byzantium.

It is easy
to forget that poetry was meant to be spoken and heard and remembered, and that
metaphor was an agent of tribal memory, not of teachers determined to expose bad
study habits. The most powerful metaphors, I believe, do not only say “this is
like the truth,” they say “this is the truth, and more.” Ezra Pound on seeing
his friends at the Metro:
“The apparition
of these faces in the crowd;/Petals on a wet, black
Nursery rhymes, with original meanings
now obscure to us, were viruses that carried news, instructions, moralizations.
“Ring around the roses, pockets full of posies,” for example, is believed by
scholars to be a recounting of what people did to try to avert the Black Plague.
(“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” being what happened when carrying pockets of
flowers didn’t work, I expect.)

is a poet in the old, old tradition. So is Noel

Poetry is not a minefield of
meanings encoded into stuffy language waiting in ambush to reveal your mental
incapacity and uneducated laundry to judgmental neighbors. If you don’t get it,
it simply does not speak to you. Leave it at that. There are many more that

What poetry is – the definitions
are novels. I don’t have a definition. I only have metaphors. Poetry is the
knocking of your knees. A scared bird in a warm hand. An ambassador from a
small, storm-soaked country in one’s soul.