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Poetic Conceit

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Old 11-30-2008, 05:47 PM
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Default Poetic Conceit


Poetic conceit is a term for an extended metaphor that governs a whole poem. Last month, as you worked on similes and metaphors, you may have found that some of your ideas were too hard to explain. In such cases, extended metaphor might work very well. Or, if the comparison is off-the-wall, extending it can be humorous.

John Donne's poem "The Flea" achieves both these goals with poetic conceit. In his day, people thought that making love involved a mingling of blood. Marriages weren't consummated until the deed was done and the couple was "one flesh". So as the narrator coaxes his mistress, he points to a flea. "Me it suck'd first, and now sucks thee," he says, so they're as good as married. "This flea is you and I, and this / Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is." His mistress doesn't fall for it and kills the flea. He responds: "Just so much honor, when thou yeeld'st to me, / Will wast, as this flea's death tooke life from thee." His conceit carries him through: she has no reason not to sleep with him (he hopes)!

Conceits can also be used to get the maximum richness from a metaphor. Rather than using it once and carrying on, the poet chooses to linger. Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for death" does this. She takes the figure of speech "death came for me", and extends it into a friendly carriage ride. She mentions that she is cold ("my tippet, only tulle") and so, unprepared for the trip. Every symbolic detail of the poem works as part of the metaphor.

This month, take your metaphors further. Try using poetic conceits! Questions and comments about this lesson go in this thread. Your work can be posted as a separate thread with "Poetic Conceit" in the title. Example: "Poetic Conceit - You Stole My Heart!"

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Old 12-01-2008, 11:13 AM
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Question, is it basically a metaphor that is the general theme of the poem?
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:32 AM
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Basically, yes. If the metaphor is elaborate or fanciful, it lends itself to governing a whole poem because it needs explaining.

For instance, let's look at the expression "You stole my heart". It's one thing to say that... quite another to say: "You stole my heart. First you crept in so quietly that I didn't notice you. Then you made yourself at home so I trusted you. Then you took it and slipped into the night! I don't know where you hid it, unless you put it in the place where yours should be... I went to the police, but there was nothing they could do."

Okay, that's an exaggerated example. But you can see how such a figure of speech could govern a whole poem. Hope that helps!
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Old 01-01-2009, 10:45 AM
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Default A Good Example

For an interesting example of poetic conceit in action, check out Lin's thread here. Notice how the woman is compared to a celestial body or other element of the universe. Astonomical terms are used for all the descriptions. The visual effects carry it one step farther. Thanks, Lin!
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Old 07-14-2009, 02:22 AM
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I'm new, are these monthly challenges or are they open-ended?
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Old 07-14-2009, 05:56 PM
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They're open ended! I post them monthly (except this past month because I'm about to add some other stuff to this area), but you can reply any time! Certainly try the techniques out!
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:23 PM
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I would claim a difference between metaphor and conceit. Metaphor is, for my money, the soul of poetics and the main distinction between prose and poetry... saying what isn't said, invoking between the lines, not meaning but being.

The conceit, on the other hand, is a bit of a gimmick. And closer to symbology than metaphor. If you examine the flea in the rather preciously gross poem HoiLei cites, isn't what you're seeing an extended symbolism or symiotic? This means that, that means the other thing?

Whereas metaphor is less tied down to correspondences and decoder rings, instead merely evocative.
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Old 07-14-2009, 10:09 PM
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I never read The Flea, so I can't comment on it. I think the best example of conceit that I know of is Emily Dickinson's My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun--

Immediately from the title you can see it is a metaphor, however; Dickinson takes this image and runs with it; it is the alpha & omega of the entire piece.
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Old 07-16-2009, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
The conceit, on the other hand, is a bit of a gimmick.
It depends on the author, maybe. John Donne's conceits always seem half intended to amuse. Even in his Holy Sonnets, there's stuff that makes me wonder whether he was trying too hard to be clever. But not all conceits are like that. Dickensen's ghostly carriage ride is a metaphor as framework for a whole poem: a conceit. But it's not gimmicky at all.
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Old 07-16-2009, 05:56 PM
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This thread does not appear as the first thread in the poetry section, but it keeps a permanent position on the Forum listing of sections under Poetry.
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Old 07-16-2009, 08:22 PM
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Unless it's a glitch, that position is not permanent. The thread which shows up on the main page of the forum is the thread which was most recently posted to within that forum. The start date doesn't matter, just the date of the most recent post. It's like that in all the forums.

Lemme try posting something in another thread to see if that shows up on the main page. It should. For instance, if I open the main poetry forum and post something there, that thread should appear on the front page.

I'll PM you when I'm done!
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Old 07-17-2009, 02:25 AM
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Metaphor is probably the reason I was so bad at poetry in my creative writing class. Everything I wrote that was a good, vivid metaphor seemed somehow vulgar.
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Old 01-26-2010, 10:37 PM
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"a metaphor is a glorious thing, a diamond ring, the first day of summer. a metaphor is a breath of fresh air, a turn-on, an aphrodisiac! chicks dig dig, D.I.G. dig dig metaphors. use them wisely use them well. and you'll never know the hell of loneliness" - the sparks.

sorry, it just seemed apt.
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Old 01-27-2010, 12:51 PM
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Nice one, chippedmonk!
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Old 01-28-2010, 11:45 AM
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oh don't thank me, thank the sparks. you should listen to them. everybody should.
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:34 PM
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This is a useful and informative thread. I personally have the hardest time understanding the majority of poetry I read! I am going to use this thread, and the Nine and Sixty Ways board as a whole to further my understanding/interpretation of different poems. MUCH appreciated!
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Old 09-05-2012, 09:56 AM
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The classic English class example, if memory serves, is "Ode On A Grecian Urn"
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Old 02-18-2013, 09:59 AM
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I'm glad I discovered this forum. I can't wait to get in to this, but first I must attend to other projects.
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:47 AM
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Default Poetic Conceit

Skin
Woe to you brutal skin, gathering dust and gloom;
Inward outings and pound of flesh, sends me to my doom.
So are you, bitter past, to whom I have chosen well;
Inward reassurances hold no remorse, in keeping with this hell.
Status quo what will you say, when I bend you to my will;
I shan’t care to lay you down, to death and oceans still.
Woe to you brutal world, gesturing might and strength;
Outwardly shoving colorful flesh, to accept and retreat to brink.
So are you discriminate creed, selective in your own defense;
Inwardly plotting separations grand, black and white commence.
I shan’t love you, I shan’t life you;
All the colors God made from himself.
Keep you then great stench division;
I bind you low to shrink not swell.
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Old 08-31-2017, 06:40 AM
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The classic English class example
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Old 08-31-2017, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by doriswullf View Post
The classic English class example

Well, hi there Doriswullf.

I like your style - no stone left unturned in here eh?

I'm not sure if you're enamoured with 'Nine and Sixty Ways' - or just can't find your way out? Yours is a very thorough investigation of a dark cupboard that I myself have never ventured into, in all these years.

Hope you'll come out for air, and chat to us. If you click on 'Quick Links' and then select 'Today's Posts' you'll find a selection of the current conversations here.

Hope to see you around - and thanks for finding my hiking boots - I had no idea where they'd gone...
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