Mission Impossible: Metaphor


Alfred Nicol

Aristotle, in his Poetics, writes that "The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor." Sadly, he goes on to say that "It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius…"

That's intimidating for all concerned; for the instructor, because Aristotle is  saying that no one can be taught how to make metaphor, and for the student, because he's saying that only a genius can do it.

We'll do our best to prove Aristotle wrong (or to prove that we're all geniuses!). In this workshop we'll look at metaphor from several different perspectives. We'll consider metaphor as "the whole of thinking," as Frost believed. We'll discuss the generative power of metaphor and the limits of metaphor. We'll pay special attention to central metaphor. We'll take time to examine the kind of erosion that causes metaphor to degenerate into cliché.

Finally, we'll consider the experience many great poets have described of having metaphor take control of their poems. As authors of our own poems, we try to be good parents and guide them in the right direction, but allowing a poem to be kidnapped by metaphor may be the best upbringing anyone can provide!



Sponsored by the Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm and the Hyla Brook Poets