Sunday, November 23, 2008
Hiking As Metaphor
Yesterday I went on an "advanced" hike to the base of Tews Falls with friends from the Hamilton - City of Waterfalls group. It wasn't until later while relaxing after a long warm soak, a hot meal, comfortable and dry clothes, that the realization dawned on me. In many ways this hike was for me much like the way I write a poem.
It starts with an idea, something different from the usual. For the hikers it was to experience (see, hear, feel, photograph) the falls in a way that most people do not. For me, a poem encapsulates an experience of living using those same senses to provide a recognizable other point of view.
After the idea comes the plan. The hikers planned to start just above Dundas, make their way over to the east bank of Spencer Creek, to the confluence with Logie's Creek, and follow that to the base of Tews Falls. Clear and simple. So with a poem. I have a place to start from, a certainty of what I want the poem to say, and a plan to use words and poetic devices to reach that objective.
With both endeavours the difficulty lies in the journey. The hike began on smooth ground, shifted to a recognizable trail. then faded into unmarked wilderness floor. As it progressed, obstacles became more difficult: tree trunks to clamber over, treacherous loose ground to be avoided, wet and icy terrain to be carefully negotiated. At times there were asides taken from the main journey. A scramble down to photograph the lower Tews Falls where Logie's joins Spencer. A climb up to inspect Ferguson Falls. A seemingly permanent campsite. The remains of a buiding/shack. And in all this the group remained cohesive while allowing distractions.
So too with making of a poem, although the poet is usually alone in his journey. He starts with easy simple steps; the difficulty increases as he advances. The words and phrases to express himself become harder to find. Something that he sought to say can't be comfortably said the way he had hoped. He stumbles with simile and metaphor, negotiates assonance and rhyme, trying to stay away from the banal and the ridiculous. He can't let the tempting biways of language distract him from the objective, the poem.
Yes, the objective. For most of the hikers it was the base of the falls, the roar and feel of the water, the light captured in photographs. I, the poet, did not feel the need for a close approach. I had achieved what I needed: a point from which to experience with mind and senses the glory of the falls from another vantage. The struggle had been difficult - scraped knuckle, bruised knee, barked shin, mud to the knees - and I was satisfied.
So too the end of the making, the final poem, must be satisfying. The poet who has immersed himself in the journey must believe he has achieved what he set out to. He also has to understand that others may not follow his journey exactly. Some may have no interest. Some will care to go only so far. And then some may use a glimmer the poem ignites to build and develop their own vision.
Each has his own understanding, his own interpretation.
And that's what it's all about.
And now I don't feel the need to write that poem. Even so ...