Speaking figures by Mark Doty

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/speaking-figures

“In her evocative memoir, The Names of Things, the Egyptologist Susan Brind Morrow points to the origins of letters in the observation of nature, how the scuttle of crab claws on sand, for instance, influenced the hieroglyph for “writing.” To use words at all is to use them figuratively; we breathe metaphor, we swim in metaphor, we traffic in metaphor—and the verbs in those three phrases illustrate my point.

Poetry’s project is to use every aspect of language to its maximum effectiveness, finding within it nuances and powers we otherwise could not hear. So the poet needs to be a supreme handler of the figurative speech we all use everyday, employing language’s tendency to connect like and disparate things to the richest possible effects. In poetry, figuration is at its most sophisticated: condensed, alive with meaning, pointing in multiple directions at once.”

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