Redefining Teaching Artist

I haven’t been this excited about writing since early last year. But really, when I say “writing” it doesn’t exactly mean what it used to mean to me, even a year ago. In the same way that reading no longer means deciphering a printed text, or that text means “text”. All these expanded definitions make room for all the mediums I have intuitively felt are experientially indivisible in praxis.

And as for “poetry”? It brings me back to Robert Bly’s leaping: leaping Aristotles’ gap between recognition and distance. Metaphors and communication of the human experience.

Aristotle said that there was no room for metaphor in scientific discourse. And he used metaphors to make his point. Metaphors are about seeing similarities in dissimilar phenomena. How can we escape metaphor when the first thing we need to do is recognize one another‘s existence as human beings?

Doesn’t it follow that everything we comprehend (defined as an experiential moment) is only comprehended via metaphor? The fundamental illusion is that we think we comprehend/experience the world as it actually is – on its own terms? I think of course of Buddhist thought, but this seems connected also to the Judeo-Christian idea that we can’t know/pronounce God’s true name.

The Aristotelian idea that metaphor in scientific discourse is a placeholder for a lack of precise language seems to presuppose that the goal is to find a codified, rigid word with specific and agreed-upon definitions. A dead transference of “fact”. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur says that when we reach this stage, nothing new can be learned. (I’m rather freely paraphrasing what I understand from his words.)

Does it follow that the naming of God, effectively “kills” God for us?

All these weird lines we draw to control ourselves. To judge ourselves and one another. To hold one another accountable to a dead rubric for our experiences. Our contributions.

Last year when I self-published a mixed media work, I took a step away from what I had aimed for and measured my success by for so many years. This year I am stepping further away from the rubric I have used for “poetry”.

Ezra Pound said, “Make it New”. But now I am thinking about – not making it new – but revealing the new.

So if, as Ricoeur* says, metaphor (poetry) is about creating the conditions for learning something new, every poet is a mentor.

*I know nothing about Ricoeur and am extrapolating based only on a single quote in the article “Aristotle’s A Priori Metaphor”, by Sean Driscoll. This isn’t an attempt to make a clean philosophical claim of any sort: just the morning’s thought process.

Off now to sketch some wasp legs.

2 Replies to “Redefining Teaching Artist”

  1. And, by extension, every storyteller is a mentor and teacher. Is that not our role, as writers, as tellers of stories, to make real fact through fiction, and aim to point others in a new direction? I am not as well read as you, and never will be; just infinitely visceral.

  2. Ricoeur’s book on metaphor is pretty exhaustive, but like a lot of philosophy, kind of a slog. Might be good for your insomnia, though!


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