What’s worse than the crooked verse

The earth leans into the sun like a chicken on a rotisserie, like a pig on a spit.

Most of what I think or write I keep to myself, which is probably best. I thought that up on my morning walk last week, rounding the last turn before home. “What makes bad metaphors bad?”

The metaphor is a kind of kung fu move for the writer – not a death blow, but critical to master. Here’s another one:

The crow walks like a drunk, won’t get out of the road when I try to pass.

I prefer that because it’s a bit more plausible than imagining the earth as a chicken or a pig. And I’m assuming most people can picture the clumsy gait of a crow. If you can’t, you should. They are funny to watch, and remind me of a band of drunks when they get together.

Metaphor to me is like that scene from Harry Potter where they need to run into a wall to transport themselves to the wizarding world (Platform 9 ¾). “Do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous.”

You have to grab hold of the metaphor, and hope it takes you somewhere else. With the chicken and the pig and the earth, that’s not going anywhere.

Metaphor works when it gets the reader to use their imagination and see the world in a way they never thought possible, like twisting ideas inside themselves, like a Möbius strip, to remind us that all things are connected.

And we are wired to think in metaphor naturally, which confounds reason. We respond to symbols, patterns, repetition. It’s the language that pre-dates written word.

I started reading Surfaces and Essences, Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, but couldn’t get it down. It’s a beautifully written book packed with ideas, but not my cup of tea.

And that’s the final word on metaphor: it allows us all to be poets, with the flip of a coin. Go, make it up.




About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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4 Responses to What’s worse than the crooked verse

  1. This is freaking me out.
    (1) I wrote about the pig and the chicken last night. Kinda. My conclusion was bacon > chicken.
    (2) I have a worse metaphor – one worse than the earth and the rotisserie and the pit on a spit. “…birthday creeps up like some unwelcome distant relatives stealing toilet paper from my closet.” It’s so badly written that I keep it there just to remind me to never write something so disastrous again.

    Bacon is still > chicken.

    Thanks for the metaphor lesson.


  2. rossmurray1 says:

    I love metaphor, and a good one should make you go “Aaaah!” not “Ewww…” Reading some Michael Chabon right now, and he tosses them out effortlessly and stunningly. Also, believe it or not, but in my notebook the other night, I wrote, “The Earth ain’t nothing but a giant rotisserie.” Then I thought, “There’s noting I can really do with that.”


    • pinklightsabre says:

      Maybe the rotisserie metaphor has legs, so to speak. Another reader said the same. I’ll have to check the Chabon. Thanks, Ross!


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