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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > November 2018 > Metaphor and metonymy

Metaphor and metonymy

Three new collections examine the contemporary world and experiment with linguistic and technical approaches



Sonia Di Placido

Guernica Editions

Port of Being

Shazia Hafiz Ramji

Invisible Publishing

Self-Defence for the Brave and Happy

Paul Vermeersch

ECW Press

IN THE LATE 15TH century, a Roman youth fell through a fissure on a hillside, only to land on the tile of a subterranean chamber. Unbeknownst to him, he had stumbled upon the baths of Titus, one of a series of “grottos” comprising the remains of Nero’s lost pleasure palace. Among the troupes of artists soon lowered into the ruins was Vasari, who described their walls as teeming with “every absurdity of monster”: a crane with the head of a man; a horse with legs made of leaves. Metabolically, we are what we eat. Metaphorically, the horse that grazes the field always has legs of leaves.

Flesh , Sonia Di Placido’s second collection of poems, extends such insights to pieces that include meditations on taxidermy to an apostrophe for a weeping bear. Di Placido favours an elliptical yet sensuous lyric foregrounded by irreverent etymological play. Her painterly eye is on display in “A Golden Hunger Trails the Emerald City,” in which the rays of dusk “lick” the “climbing shiny gilded easel walls” of verdant skyscrapers. “American Cliché” describes a road trip to the Nevada desert, a place “where rain doesn’t know its own tears”; the utterances of the parched speaker increasingly mirror the “disembodied / parts” of broken-down cars “stationed-in-the-hothorizon,” making tactile Charles Olson’s claim that “America is just a complex of occasions.”

For Ramji, to be grotesque is simply what it takes to be a realist

Di Placido experiments with mixed results. Her more conspicuous puns, such as “Pick (me) up trucks” and “leading” pencil, often land somewhere between avuncular comedy and post-graduate baroque. A series of erasure poems critiquing the fetishistic language of recipes fails to convey much that a moderately conscientious omnivore wouldn’t already be acquainted with. She is at her best when her lines are allowed to slacken and accrue a n associative musicality. In “Canto for a Cameo Trailblazer,” subject and object shape-shift in a reverie of form and colour in which grapevines converse with birch leaves and “a novel tramp” adopts hooves. “I touch these cameos,” writes Di Placido in a kind of aesthetic credo, “become / the gem-like stone background reborn into canto.”

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