The Magic’s in the Metaphors: Learning from Lisa M. Cole’s Negotiating with Objects

“Well, there it is again: that damn penny moon;
that dirty crystal ball; a pearl; a child’s flimsy kite
staggering drunk behind me.”

Herein lies none of those overly romantic images of the moon that seem to be ridiculously pervasive in modern poetry.
No Nicholas Sparks references to the moon’s ability to look over all of us as we fall in love over and over.
No rhyming “moon” and “June,” no tacky or tired comparisons.
No, here we sense a sort of tired disgust with the moon’s presence,
a complicated emotion that drew me in when I read it.
And it’s accomplished solely with surprising turns of metaphor.

This is the genius of Lisa M. Cole, author of Negotiating with Objects and five other chapbooks, as well as two full collections of poetry.

As I read this chapbook this weekend, I found myself continually intrigued by the way she utilizes language. This chapbook is formatted as a collective whole by how the poem’s are titled–each one taking the form: “After _______.” (The poem that I quoted is from her poem “After Asking.”)

I get this sense after reading her chapbook that she is using language to deeply explore issues and instances that can be very complicated and surreal, but she is seeking to understand and express those things with metaphor that can give the reader a sense of concrete imagery to hold onto.

One such issue she explores is this: amputation. She explores the implications of medical and biological loss in her poems “After Amputation” and “After Seeing.”

The line that I thought was most powerful in these poems was in “After Seeing,” where the speaker expresses
“Again, I am half-phantom-ing–
my stuttering foot in a paperweight shoe.”
The personification of the foot, the metaphor of the shoe as a paperweight holding down a phantom limb…these intriguing metaphors express a difficult-to-explain sensation while giving the reader a concrete thought to hold onto about it.

I see this seeking, this exploration especially in her form. She writes short stanzas, and most of her poems utilize Roman numerals to separate them into sections. I think this gives her the opportunity to explore each poem’s theme in greater depth and shows that wants to explore for many different angles.

I think metaphor is the most important feature of her writing that I would like to glean for my own writing.
I would love to be able to craft turns of phrase even partially as well-written as hers.

However, that’s just me, and there’s far more to know and glean.

Give her chapbook a read if you’d like at http://www.sundresspublications.com/negotiatingwithobjects.pdf

and keep reading, friends. There’s much to learn.

Abigail Joy

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