By "metaphorical sense" I mean a type of inventiveness that can appear even when metaphor seems absent. It's not merely a knack for crafting comparisons without "like" or "as," but the ability to establish far-reaching connections, as well as disjunctions, in consciousness...to examine and re-examine motifs [that] begin to constellate a whole climate of thought and feeling as amplitudinous as any symbol system. Metaphorical sense always implies the vision of a larger shape of being (228-229).
The work of many poets "implies the vision of a larger shape of being." But no two poets have "metaphorical sensibilities" that are more acute, more overlapping, and more comprehensive than Ostriker and Campion. Even though Ostriker's body of work spans more than six decades, and Campion has only been alive for barely four, these two poets seem to be speaking to one another, particularly when they write about metaphor. (Ostriker says in her "Eros and Metaphor" that metaphor "is what language uses to show that the world is full on connections.") Let's "listen in" to the conversation that takes place between two of their poems.
Ambition. Jealousy. Adrenaline.
The fear that loneliness is punishment
and that corrosive feeling draining down
the chest the natural and just result
of failures. . . . What delicious leisure not
to feel it. What sweet reprieve to linger
here with these ovals of purple and flamingo
plumed from the tree or splayed on pavement.
If only for these seconds before returning
to the open air those flowers keep
pushing out of themselves to die inside.
Peter Campion, from The Lions (The University of Chicago Press, 2009)
Middle-Aged Woman at a Pond
The first of June, grasses already tall
In which I lie with a book. All afternoon a cardinal
Has thrown the darts of his song.
One lozenge of sun remains on the pond,
The high crowns of the beeches have been transformed
By a stinging honey. Tell me, I think.
Frogspawn floats in its translucent sacs.
Tadpoles rehearse their crawls.
Here come the black flies now,
And now the peepers. This is the nectar
In the bottom of the cup,
This blissfulness in which I strip and dive.
Let my questions stand unsolved
Like trees around a pond. Waters's cold lick
Is a response. I swim across the ring of it.
Alicia Ostriker, from The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)