Plog 19th August 2013: Symbols

August 19th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized

In my most recent Plog I mentioned the idea of exploring the use of symbol in poetry. I would like to spend this Plog introducing the idea with a view to further enquiry if discussion is prompted. This may seem a bit disjointed, since it contains homophones (like their and there), but I am hoping your own creative juices may be stimulated enough to post your own symbolic poetry at the end, so that we can have a well-rounded discussion. See how symbols strike you.


In one of the earliest Creative Writing Workshops I organised for Lapidus South West, I quoted Percy Bysshe Shelley: ‘Language is vitally metaphorical; that is it marks the before unapprehended relations of things.’

A baby learning to talk may use imagery to store pictures in memory.
Often a poet will deliberately attempt to ‘be as little children’ [Matthew 18:3 ] and put on an innocent persona in order to write unconditioned thoughts. I would like to address the word cymbal in its simplest form: a musical instrument.

Here is my own description of a cymbal in that workshop: ‘Metallic rings of rhythm reach out from the circle of sound, stuck severely by the wooden wand that strikes, like a pebble dropped into a puddle, releasing rings of rippling motion.’ Everybody else was still writing so I worked it into an acrostic:

Metallic rings of rhythm reach out and
Extend from the circle of sound, struck
The chime of the wooden wand, severely
Articulating striking sound like a
Pebble dropped into a puddle, spreading
Hollow rounds of haunting cavity with
Oscillating undulation, open
Releasing rings of rippling symbol.

Already symbolism had taken over; but the acoustic sound of the instrument lends physicality to the concepts, influenced by bodily resonance with the chime of vibrating brass.

cymbals again

Other participants were interested in emotional connection of body and mind.

Practical Metaphor
We began the evening with a dramatherapy exercise. I opened an imaginary folded-up tablecloth and shook it out over the table, asking everyone to catch an edge as it fell. Into this I deposited my stress, which I extracted from my stomach. We each offloaded unwanted emotions and between us built up a rhythm, to jettison our baggage out of the window. That lightened the load!
Often, to introduce ourselves to each other, we begin a workshop with a round of metaphors and everyone fills in the blanks: ‘If I were a musical instrument, I would be a . . . . . . . . . .’.    ‘ The ‘musical instrument’ can be swapped for other themes at different groups.

A cymbal sends out ripples making sound.
It resonates in air and comes to ground
beneath the skin of the listener: found.

Maybe poetry is a symbol:
communication, brief and nimble,
distilling complex works from Tyndale.

In gentle ways the music gets around.

Leroy Johnson in the television series, Fame, commented: “I don’t know. I’ve never met a for!”

Would you like to post your own poem about a cymbal or symbol below?

and the ripples



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