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Write What You Know?

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If you are an orchardist whose money crop is prunes, what should you write about?  Here is a poem by Joseph Bohnett, written back in an era (before radio) when people wrote their own poems just as they played their own music.

AT A PRUNE CAKE BANQUET

 Oh! Ye monarchs of all Europe

And our beloved Roosevelt,

Drink your wines, and eat your gruels.

Let us eat our prunes for health.

 

Oh!  Ye rich of all this world,

Harrimans, Goulds, and Vanderbilts,

Ye dyspeptic railroad lords,

why will you not eat prunes for health?

 

Oh! Ye poor of all this world,

With no money in the bank,

Yet on wines and beer with gorge

Instead of eating purnes for health.

 

Oh! Ye Sisters of this Grange

Who near this town of Campbell dwell,

In baking prune cake for this Grange,

I want to say that you did well.

 

How many” rules” of poetry does this poem violate?  Does it matter?

 I grew up in the same area where Joseph Bohnett lived, but I never had a prune cake.  Joseph makes me think I’ve missed something.

 There’s much more to be said on “rules” and poetry – for another day.

What Is Metaphor?

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Metaphor is a good Greek word which means “a carrying from one place to another.”  It is, originally,  an action, not a thing.  It is the operation which changes a word by a new association.  The Greeks thought of it as “transferring to one word the meaning of another.”

The Greeks were better at abstractions than the English, apparently, since the current usage of “metaphor” usually refers to the thing to which the original word is compared.

According to this research in my old, patched together on both sides of the spine, Greek Dictionary, then, metaphor is not something you can choose, as from a list (“Shall I call this state a ship?  Shall I call this life a hard road?”)

Shall I say that research may upset the apple cart?  My poetry may be in for metamorphosis – a change of form.

What Is Freethought?

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Freethought is a historical movement.  It had its greatest influence on society at large in the era of Robert Ingersoll, who died in 1899.  It was primarily an effort to get people to think for themselves instead of accepting the doctrines of conventional churches.  Freethinkers despise any idea which they find to be contrary to reason.

Freethought does not only question specific dogmas.  It is also an approach to issues of life in general.  Here’s my working definition:

Freethought questions every frame or box.  When presented with opposites, it is on the alert for a “third way.”  It is built on the recognition that any answer considered final is likely to gel into dogma.

It’s interesting to ponder how that gelling process is similar to the way metaphors become clichés.

A Freethinker’s Metaphors

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John Emerson Roberts, freethought preacher (see Books) believed in clear thinking.  He believed that encouraging people to think for themselves was his mission, his contribution to society.  He lifted up free thinking against all doctrine, all dogma.  He could not lecture without metaphor.  Sometimes he even mixed his metaphors, as in the following example:

“The brain is the sun. Civilization is its light. Thought is the mother of progress. The mother must be free in order that the child may be well-born.”  (Roberts, Lecture on Ingersoll, 1902.)

Light is a popular metaphor among freethinkers.  Robert Ingersoll used it extensively.  Motherhood was a beloved concept of the latter half of the nineteenth century.  There is more to say on both of these.

Why Freethought and Metaphor?

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To begin with, these are the focus of my two kinds of publications: a freethought biography and books of poetry.

Beyond that, they are two ways the creative mind should address the world: always looking beyond dogma and ever on the lookout for unexpected parallels.