Yesterday, while having a gratifying discussion with a very special poet, I was asked how I make connections when I write imagery. This person enjoys my similes and metaphors a lot. I just shrugged. And shrugged again.
Then, it hit me: it’s because of John Donne. His metaphysical poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” has been one of my absolute favorite poems. Metaphysical poetry utilizes conceits, or extended metaphors. It consists of a tactile object and a concept that gives the reader a powerful word picture. In “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” he juxtaposes a compass (the kind used to draw circles) with love…I won’t spoil it. If you’ve never read it (or haven’t read it since your high school English class) stop reading this right now, look it up, then resume! You will NOT regret it!
My junior year of high school, we were assigned to write conceits after reading his work. I linked hatred and a stack of papers together. It later became part of a larger poem that I used for a poetry slam.
Today, however, my admiration for Donne struck me in a different way. He very quietly molded my writing, such that I did not become aware of it fully until today. Oftentimes, when writers learn of a technique, they instantly, and very consciously/conspicuously, apply it (like my slam poem). Sometimes, it’s mediocre, or even poor. Other times, it comes off as contrived and hinders the writer’s real voice.
It helped me to appreciate how gradual and imperceptible growth is. We don’t have to put undue pressure on ourselves. All we need to focus on is to just write. One day, we’ll wake up and we’ll see just how influential a writer was to us. And we will have successfully implemented that technique!
Gosh, I love talking to that unnamed, special poet who knows who they are 😉