Saturday, March 18, 2006


I see I've been haiku'd by Dean Esmay. LOL!

BTW, those leather-soled wool-sock slippers of mine are striped blue, red, yellow, and green on white, just like my Hudson's Bay Point Blanket. (Which is also wool, if you hadn't guessed.)

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Blogger Dean Esmay said...

Without making too big a deal out of what is just a bit of fluff, I must say the whole thing surprised me on a somewhat deep level. Utterly without guile or desire for satire, I just read your piece and my brain instantly and unbiddingly said, "it's like a poem. Like a haiku." The rest just wrote itself--and you'll notice that the central 7-syllable stanza is exactly as you wrote it.

It reminds me of Eric Raymond's essay on experiencing the Gods, or your own piece about the bronze sun and the quicksilver moon. My brain just automatically did that, without my trying at all. I don't even know where it came from, but it was totally spontaneous. My brain just looked at your original posting, and said instantly, "that's like a haiku." No plan, no motivation, no nothing. It just came out.

As oddly melodramatic as it sounds, such spontaneous doggeral is the sort of thing that makes me want to believe in God, in ways that I can't entirely explain.

Saturday, March 18, 2006 8:44:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Yeah, there's a cluster of phenomena which center around language and/or experience just "clicking" and "flowing" in ways which (like the Doctor's TARDIS) are often "bigger on the inside than on the outside."

If you got that from my "bronze sun and quicksilver moon" piece, then I must've somehow communicated what I didn't really imagine would communicate— because I had much the same experience writing that piece as you evidently had reading it.

And the experience is indeed akin to what Eric Raymond covers in his intriguing essay.

One of my very first posts on this blog dealt with what I call "strangely apt misreadings"— what the novelist Walker Percy called "metaphor as mistake." Someone mistold Percy that a certain bird was a "blue-dollar hawk." Percy was disappointed when he learned the bird was actually called a "blue-darter hawk": "blue-dollar" seemed so much more apt than "blue-darter."

In one of his better-known poems, Dylan Thomas wrote:

   Altarwise by owl-light in the half-way house
   The gentleman lay graveward with his furies;
   Abaddon in the hangnail cracked from Adam,
   And, from his fork, a dog among the fairies,
   The atlas-eater with a jaw for news,
   Bit out the mandrake with to-morrow's scream.

But what was Thomas saying? A poet has to hit the bullseye only a handful of times in his career, to be considered a great poet. But what sort of bullseye is it, that is characterized by what we would ordinarily call missing the target altogether? There is a certain kind of poetry which works, and succeeds, by trafficking heavily in "metaphor as mistake." What in the world is going on here?

I could name a long string of interrelated phenomena in my own life which function on this level for me, and I think you've already heard some of them from me: my experiences with synaesthesia, "music" in repetitive background noise, hypnagogic and hypnopompic dreams, and mystical experience; to say nothing of my nigh-synaesthetic reactions to board games and card games, listening to the radio, slide rules, and the sound of a vacuum cleaner. Plus, last but not least, that language I created starting at age 13.

All these experiences of mine, and more, tie together somehow. In biographical terms, I think it stems from the "radioactive core meltdown of the imagination" which I suffered around age six, and which has never really let up. The common note, insofar as I can put my finger on it, is something unexpected but strangely apt that opens up from within the heart of the experience.

What's going on in each of these cases? I'm not sure, but if I had to sum it up, I'd hazard the educated guess that it has something to do with the structure and workings of metaphor— including, but not limited to, linguistic metaphor— creative metaphor, "live" metaphor, metaphoric tension, metaphoric catechresis, connotation, networks of association; and even metaphor qua irreducible metaphor as capable of bearing epistemic freight.

Dammit, Dean, I ought to write this up as a blog post. But not on a Saturday evening. Not with Sunday morning looming up. I gotta hit the sack. :-)

Saturday, March 18, 2006 9:11:00 PM  

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