Saturday, October 17, 2015

It's My Metaphor and I'll Cry if I Want To*

The title of this post is derived from of one of the chapter titles of a book that 'jumped out' from the poetry shelves at a bookstore in Mill Valley called: How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster. (The actual title of the Chapter is 'It's My Symbol and I'll Cry if I Want To.) I haven't had the chance to read more than a few passages out of the book yet. But what I did read resonated deeply. Namely, a section that discusses that whatever authors write inevitably gets transformed in readers minds into different contexts than what was the authors' intention. He adds that this is part of the mystic of literature and poetry. And that in present day, initially authors can be disturbed by the transformation process but need to learn to accept it as a cultural given.

There is one particular haiku that I wrote that has been interpreted entirely differently from the actual intended meaning. This particular haiku has caused a substantial amount of reactivity in myself and others which continues to this day, so the context in which it was written is worth reviewing in order to put it to rest and re-assert the original context.

During spring season at Antaiji, we often were working in the fields in incessant rain. There was no clothes drier at Antaiji and it would take clothes several days to air dry. Speaking for myself, the situation was aggravated by the fact that that I hadn't been able to find my rain pants when packing in preparation for the trip. (My husband typically neglected to put away gear after he went canoeing.) In short, the rain pants I had were borrowed and didn't fit. Whatever pants I was wearing got soaked within five or ten minutes of being out in fields. The haiku, though not one I particularly like:

A storm: hard to walk --
When you're dripping wet, and when
Sitting, drips stain cloth.

I know this haiku got taken out of context, largely due to the presence of a poet that would often mix zen with more erotic haiku. I particularly loved the haiku in the zen vein but, speaking for myself, I found some of the other haiku problematic. I was aware that he was part of a group of writers that 'corralled' women to form attachments and make choices they wouldn't have made outside of this active process. Given the poet's tendency to anger quickly we developed an antagonist relationship, though I kept him within view -- largely due to the subliminal details in his haiku, information he shouldn't have had access to.

The transformation of symbols, metaphors, etc as they metamorphose through online environments can give rise to some very spurious results. But the inclusion of subliminal facts that individuals should be unaware of makes it particularly problematic and can have a hypnotizing effect since the process is out of writers' control. Unfortunately, for women, the 'corralling' process is not unlike that described in an article about the Congo from the Huffington Post that refers to 'male bonding' as a motivating factor, though I still think a sense of entitlement is also a cause.

Thankfully, the on-line environment is not real life, though it has real life consequences. And how are affected women supposed to deal with a trauma they don't have any evidence for and whose lives aren't respected?

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