We saw the world premiere of the opera, Il Postino, based on the book and film about the exiled poet Pablo Neruda and his relationship with a young postman on the Italian island of Cala di Sotto. Though the story about Neruda and the postman is fiction, the portrayal of the power and beauty of poetry resonated with me.
Right on stage, Placido Domingo who plays Neruda, gives the young postman and would be poet, Mario, a lesson in the use of metaphor. In fact a flat curtain becomes a blackboard on which the metaphors are displayed. I felt like I was in a classroom – a very joyous one at that.
As Leann Davis Alspaugh states in LA Opera’s “Performances” Magazine, “As figures of speech, metaphor and simile express the unfamiliar in familiar terms” the difference is that simile uses like or as to put the comparison across. The metaphor offers more subtle opportunities for expression than the simile, whose code words alert us to its presence. Thus poets tend to favor the metaphor for its suggestiveness.”
I must admit that my poems are mostly devoid of metaphors and similes. I usually say it like it is, simply and straightforward. But, now I am motivated to change that a bit. Metaphors are such a powerful way to make comparisons. As sung in the opera –everything in life and nature can be a basis for a metaphor.
Neruda wrote of his poetry beginnings in the poem Poetry:
And it was at that age… Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know. I don’t know
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night, abruptly from the others
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
I feel the same way. Poetry just arrived for me, and I’ve been hooked ever since.