Thursday, March 28, 2013

Word Stacked Metaphors

For a couple years I've taken part in the secret past time of writing poetry under unreasonable deadlines.  I know I need to quit, but it's been hard.  The website I used is called NANOWRIMO, which is short for National November Writing Month.  All participants of this site covenant to give up time towards writing 50000 words.  It could be a novel, play, or short story.  I chose a story one year, and the last time I tried, I attempted to write several poems.

Writing a poem, short summaries of condensed thoughts, to achieve a lofty 50000 word goal should have triggered a warning flag somewhere in my brain to stop and pursue something more possible, but I did it anyways.  And failed to reach my daily quotas.  Which slowly helped me fail to reach the 50000 word goal.  You know, I really hate the word fail, and I'm going to flip it around and redifine the flipped fail to prove my next point.  So fail flipped around is liaf.  And liaf according to urban dictionary is someone who fails repeatedly... there's that negative connotation again!

I will redefine liaf as an acronym for what repeated failures can do for any person, group, or corporation.
L.I.A.F in my book is "Let Inspiration Add Forever".  What I mean by that is yes failures suck.  They result in scars, fears, and low points for a story.  But in the end what ends up happening is life, the creation, or product ends up being a sum of the lessons learned from several failures.  It's through these failures people take the long road enough until they know where the short cuts could be and use those quick routes to help when time is short.  And after fine tuning your skills and figuring out the faster ways to get things done you end up making a lot of stuff.  Eventually the "stuff" is seen and sometimes people like it.  Other times your creations could help someone.  In rare occasions it could end up helping 100s and 1000s of folks just like you who needed help.  You may not see this happening in a day, but if you count all the people you've met and gotten to know in the past 10 years you may find you've already influenced thousands of people.

The actions one is inspired to do are yanked out of failures and added to future creations making making more efficient until... boom.  This thing before your eyes you spent time on isn't that bad. It's actually quite alright.

So my little thing for you... which is kind of OK.. is one of my methods for writing poems.  I called it Word Stacked Metaphors.

When I was into the poetry scene in Worcester, I heard some killer Poetry Slams.  This led me to look into poetry a bit more and I ran into Joni Mitchells timeless metaphor... feather canyons.  How the hell did she come up with that??  In two words, Joni has me drooling all over myself.

There I was, on some November evening, sitting at my computer or sometimes in front of a blank page taking part in NANOWRIMO trying to figure out how I was going come up with another poem.  The pressure was too much and I needed some way to cheat.

Here's the cheat sheet.


I'll explain.  I start with a list of words.  The easiest way is to yank words out of your current surroundings.  I was sitting at a Starbucks in Westford drinking a Venti Iced Americano when I wrote this so the words straw, coffee, star, bucks, west, and ford make an appearance on my top 20 list of words.  I walked to this starbucks and saw piles of salt so 'salt' and 'clumps' make it on the list too.  Three business guys were talking behind me and left while I was writing so "group of three" and "agreement" are on board.

I then proceed to marry these words together.  I don't just put obvious words together like coffee and snack which are both related to something you consume.  I try to get non-obvious pairings like the countless of beautifully mixed race couples I've seen walking about in London.  And with "feather canyons" as a source of inspiration I was off.

Here's the word stack:

coffee
snack
nail
hand
plume
pump
underground/submerged
salt
clumps
bake
straw
crumbling
calls
breath
group of three
agreement
buck
star
west
ford
recoil

Here are the metaphors from the non-obvious pairings:

submerged breaths
straw stars
crumbly call
coffee ford
group of three unions
salty recoil
breath snack
underground star
crumbling hand
clumpy breath

and here are more I came up with transcribing this list

submerged star
bucking star
group of breaths
salty stars

In the back of my head, I keep in mind there are no wrong metaphors while this list is being made.
If anything, I compare the potency of the metaphors and grab those extremely potent ones to start the poem.  The non-potent metaphors are still equally valuable as they may help in other ways.

Here's the poem that came from staring at the freshly baked metaphors.

Title: Circles

The crumbly call placed a coastal chain
from the rocks of Maine to Oregon's rain

A friend's voice, a father's choice
A permanent stain, surrounded by skin

He said, "If we view life only as strife
left behind by a dull knife
we miss arrays of year-long plays
about goodness and where it stays."

My silence strewn
under stars
straw drips of light
on darkened cars
gave way to consent
what I called bent
was a circle in motion and never spent.

© 2013, Ruben A. Brito

Now that may be the crappiest poem you've ever read, but it summarizes a very important call I made to a close friend who currently lives in Oregon.  He helped me see the larger arc past my bad experiences as a child to asking these questions, "Am I better off now then when I was younger?" and "Is my son better off now than my father was when he was a child?".