I recently asked this question of my high school sophomore classes, since they are about to start studying Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. While considering my own answer, I read the following paragraph on a senior’s metaphor quiz. Her paragraph shapes my thinking about the wisdom question. In this section of the metaphor quiz, seniors were asked to find and explain an insight from one of the poems in our text. Below, you see the quiz question and this student’s–unedited–response. From my perspective, her sentences are part of what wisdom looks like.
“It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”
To paraphrase the above statement from American poet, William Carlos Williams, poems provide valuable insights—i.e., ones that reduce suffering. They show us something that is hard to find elsewhere, especially in news stories. Find one poem from last week’s reading (104-111) that offers such an insight. Within that poem, explain one metaphor that embodies this insight. In your explanation, be sure to identify the metaphor’s literal and figurative terms.
I found an example of this valuable insight that a poem can provide in Craig Raine’s A Martian Sends a Postcard Home. Raine states “Only the young are allowed to suffer openly. Adults go to a punishment room with water but nothing to eat. They lock the door and suffer the noises alone. No one is exempt and everyone’s pain has a different smell” (25-30). The figurative term used is the punishment room. Although adults do not have a physical punishment room to retreat to, Raine is trying to highlight that most adults do not express their pain often. If an adult had temper tantrum as often and to the extent some children do, it would not be socially acceptable. Often times, adults keep their pain and anger bottled up. The insight given in this poem is that everyone suffers. Although not everyone looks to be suffering on the surface, it is important to be mindful that everyone has a story.