My experiences with extended metaphor have been curious. And many of them are derived from organised religion. The Baptists who visited our school would invariably shock us into attention with tactics akin to tipping the ice-bucket. Then, after five minutes, the fun would stop abruptly with the phrase, “…which is kind-of-like Jesus”. At which point, they would contrive a toe-curling analogy with their Christian faith. At which point, our attention would exit.
Reading poetry has since restored my faith in metaphor and how it can extend deeply and cleanly over individual poems, sequences and collections. While writing ‘The Recurrency of Peter Body’, I was interested in exploring the connection between the fallibility yet constancy of the human body and representations of Peter the Apostle. Fortunately for the poem, this connection struck me as obvious. And as I researched – returning to the King James Bible, reading the frescos of Masaccio and paintings of Caravaggio – the resonances revealed themselves, as if inevitably.
However metaphor is not an end in itself. I’m with Derrida in the belief that metaphor is “a basic way of knowing”. It’s active in pressing towards definition – through comparison – and hence towards understanding. So in the poem, for example, I’m also interested in where, in a secular society, we locate our ‘church’. If, as the poem suggests, we locate it with the individual – in the body – then what are the implications of this? It might suggest individualism, egotism maybe, hubris… which is kind-of-like Jesus.
Sarah Roby’s ‘The Recurrency of Peter Body’ was published in The Poetry Review, 104:3.