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Supriya Bhatnagar

  • The Writer’s Chronicle April 2020 cover, blue sky with clouds and a sketched face with glasses

    Dangers of Metaphor

    I very much enjoyed reading Emily Rose Cole’s article “The Lyric Mode: Crip Time and Its Metaphors,” (The Writer’s Chronicle, vol. 52, #4, April 2020) especially because Cole seems to be agreeing with Plato’s reason for not including poets in his Republic. Dangerous creatures, poets, they are indeed liars. Yes, metaphor deceives, and it’s also a way to another kind of truth, of course, as Cole acknowledges. In other words, poetry is inherently subversive (just look at what it does to language), which is exactly its power. Which is why I love it. But I also understand the dangers (isn’t it wonderful to talk about the dangers of metaphor?). Like Cole, Zen Buddhist poets are suspicious of or even try to do away with metaphor, because when one thinks or writes metaphorically, one is looking away from an object rather than truly seeing it. That dynamic seems true to me as well. Much thanks for the piece.

    Susan Azar Porterfield
    DeKalb, IL


    Emily Rose Cole Responds:

    Thank you so much for this wonderfully close reading! I hadn’t thought about the connection to the Republic, though I do think that it’s not really poets who are the liars. Instead, the fabric of our language itself makes everyone, poets or not, susceptible to lies, and poets are particularly urged to pay close attention to the power they wield. In the Benjamin Jowett translation of the Republic, Socrates says to Glaucon: “The good poet cannot compose well unless he knows his subject, and . . . he who has not this knowledge can never be a poet . . . Perhaps they may have come across imitators and been deceived by them; they may not have remembered when they saw their works that these were but imitations thrice removed from the truth.” These wise words are a great reminder for the writers of today to think carefully about what we believe to be “true.” Metaphor can be dangerous, certainly. But we can choose to employ it to reveal truth, so long as we’re willing to spend time checking our sources and being careful about context.