A Poem’s Expectations: Tolerance For Ambiguity (2015-07-06)

A Poem’s Expectations: Tolerance For Ambiguity (2015-07-06)

A koan is a Zen problem. The most famous koan, at least in the West, is: "What is the sound of one hand clapping." The answer to the koan is usually as cryptic as the question, and often becomes part of the problem. To grasp the relationship between question and answer involves thinking metaphorically. It also requires a willingness to tolerate ambiguity, even paradox. Poems are obviously very much like koans, with the important difference that they are not problems. People that read with a ruler will have a difficult time with poems. A considerable number of koans are jokes, albeit serious ones, and this is also true of poems. Much depends on thesis and antithesis, and the surprise synthesis. Dictionaries are useful. They are orderly, although it is an arbitrary order. What is the natural order? When the white heron stands in the snow it has a different colour. And that is why cold clarifies.”

(Excerpt from my book Cold Pigging Poetics)

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