In Honour Of The Synecdoche



Let me tell you merrily, enchant you quite rhetorically,
About a simple word I heard a little accidentally;
It’s now a vital part of me, this surreptitious imagery,
A meronomic dash of metaleptic contiguity,
That urges me to usher in this grand old hymn of hyponyms
And grammar-happy law.

To call a thing another thing, when what’s the thing is in the thing,
So calling it by what it is a bit becomes the thing it is,
That is, you see, synecdoche, a literary symphony,
A happenstance of circumstance and almost metaphor,
A nice concentric parallel of signifiable other selves:
Synecdoche, I adore.

Say you were to venture free upon a land as yet unseen
You could describe this journey using tired old metaphor:
By using feet along your way, just so you have “set foot” you say,
And thus of human travelling your readers will be sure.
“But this is not the same as me”, says innocent synecdoche,
So disparate assured.

This little term with grander dreams, an idea born of more,
Can figure speech with spindled reach of what it meant before:
A cup of tea can not be drunk, one drinks the tea but not the cup,
Yet here I sit with but a cup of tea for me to drink, as such.
This “cup of tea” synecdoche does titillate me thoughtfully,
A coil of seeming flaw.

If we know just what you mean you’ll need no detailed furthering
To stand in meaning fully meant with no accoutring evident;
A simple cusp of your intent will see sincerely ears are lent
Unto your tongue, as it does run its way around such sentiment.
But need befits a rhetoric that seeks expressive betterment
When speaking extempore:

These simple suits of substitutes of lexical a kind,
Are all a sort of mirror-thought for fractured casts of eye,
And such a reverent panoply of referential languaging
Does tell a tale of tellings, told with fervent teleology:
In truth your mind does need to find a space for truth to realign
Behind an open door.

Yet such a many-whimsied tree of ever-present fancy-free
Does throw upon the clearest song a fray of thoughtful gall,
For into our autonomy of insight-bound phonology
Comes something here that’s not so clear and sets me on a pondering,
I need a leaf of clarity to combat liminality;
Confused, I burrow more.

Beset with this endearingly unconsummated querying,
I need to see synecdoche defined unto its core:
If it is a smallery, implying what it seeks to be,
Then isn’t it the same as what it does refer to separately?
Can it be true that what it is, is what it isn’t truthfully?
What reference does it store?

Metonymy, conceptually, is like a wordy knavery,
Because the primal meanery does not survive the thievery;
Taken to a newer home, of context all the poet’s own,
The clash of image new and known is seed for meaning grown,
A little seed that may take heed of ideas left alone
On ever-verdant shore.

On other glove, synecdoche (to stay with manufactory)
Does hold the meaning with an iron-fisted gripped analogy.
In fact the meaning here is key, for what it sees is what you see,
The hand of man is still a hand (for man does have a hand you see),
The concept of synecdoche is like a forest all of tree:
A propagated core.

And there I twist a simile to seek and find definitively
That solid understanding so diaphanously eluding me.
Before, I stumbled on through the unbearable taxonomy,
Just skirting past the syllogistic claws of rank holonymy,
And so I now face up to the detestable recidivy
Of words, and all they’re for.

This meaning-multiplicity demeans the blind veracity
I seek in all the forms I trust as vessels of the sought;
A ghost of wrought opacity does haunt my perspicacity,
So wrenchingly does entropy finagle all my thoughts
And take them out of time, so time again can space exhort
Eternally, once more.

All this faff and drivel over just a simple swivel
From the micro to the macro by association’s call!
It seems a verbal ligature of idioms can signature
A referent, that never lent a consciousness implicature
Beyond the quick expedient of cognisance convenient
Where mystery is born.

For language, with its brutally enchanted sense of usury,
Does leave unblessed the better sets of visions felt intuitively.
And in these fissures, frugally, with figurative illusory
Assumptions, made in earnest with eluctable collusions, we
Do lend ourselves to subtle cells of fine, bespoke community,
And harmony restore.

What’s left must be an irony of all this human finery,
That never yet has author set a feeling down in law;
Whatever introspections can be felt as true inflections
Can still only be expressed with what a language can afford.
So call upon your subtleties, your dialectic alchemies:
Synecdoche once more!


5 thoughts on “In Honour Of The Synecdoche

  • December 25, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Regarding your penultimate verse….

    Well said!
    Your idea of bespoke modality in the context of Dylan’s art is accurate and explains his canny method amid the conflicting pressures of “enchanted usury” (otherwise known as mass market show biz). How does an artist succeed when he is selling conflicting emotions and contradictory reactions that find an audience echo only in the few?

    As you so neatly put it, by employing “figurative illusory assumptions” made almost by accident, but redeemed by sincerity. By writing lyrics firmly anchored in the “you” and “I” and “them” of personal experience and emotional reaction. This is common in pop songs as they describe one-way emotions of love or hate in the accepted fashion. The key for most writers is to present a simple picture to appeal to the mass; a K- Mart modality in your terms.

    Dylan however weaves a complex web of interactions of various characters and impulses that sometimes becomes overwhelming, so the less discerning listener gives up, unable or unwilling to accept contradiction. It is difficult to sell a pop song singing, “I hate myself for loving you and the weakness that is shows” but Dylan does it by the very method you describe of bespoke modality devoid of the “visibles”.

    This is where he departs from the conventions of poetry and avoids the concrete image or the visible picture. I presume you disdain the absence of the visible in his art but there is no need for him to describe or explain; his purpose is to relate emotions or to evoke the impact of the physical visible world in terms of the psyche. That is the poet’s job after all.

    All of the above leads me to quibble with line 2 of the penultimate verse. That the commercial marketplace … “will leave unblessed the better sets of visions felt intuitively.”

    Given the intuitive nature of both his writing and performing practices over many years within the folk tradition, I maintain his body of work contains his better sets of visions.

    The last verse of course is almost perfect saying we are all limited by language, but should carry on regardless. Dylan however being a modern sound artist is able to express himself in the second dimension of the spoken voice. By inflexion, emphasis, rhythm and melody he is always adding meaning to the written word. He is not limited by language but that is a whole other story.

    (Now back to the first verse!)

    • December 25, 2014 at 7:51 am

      Why thank you! I feel flattered to have earned such a commentary.

      Regarding the absence of the visible and the ‘unblessed better visions’, I would argue that the poet’s initial vision, formed out of the invisible idea and seeking expression, is always ‘unblessed’ as soon as it is limited to an expressible form. In this sense, it isn’t a criticism of Dylan or his work, but a lamentation over the fact that he has to degrade the purity of his vision by needing to exist!

    • December 25, 2014 at 8:24 am

      When is your book on Dylan coming out? Your comment was a great read, and very insightful.

  • December 27, 2014 at 10:54 am

    There are several phrases in your Raving that capture or describe elements of Dylan’s writing very well.

    These little suits of substitutes of lexical a kind,
    Are all a sort of mirror-thought for fractured casts of eye,

    Yet such a many-whimsied tree of ever-present fancy-free
    Does throw upon the clearest cuts a fray of thoughtful gall,

    Yes, well said! That is what sets Dylan apart. What seems like free association or surrealist word pictures with some humour included, usually has a dose of reality attached. A contradiction to make it real or at least remind us of the contingency of our emotions. An example…….

    I met somebody face to face,
    I had to remove my hat.
    She was everything I need and love
    But I can’t be swayed by that
    It frightens me, the awful truth of how sweet life can be.
    BD 1974

    This next statement of yours is a natural response to many of Bob’s songs as his high wire act balances between his desire to keep things vague and the need to be emotionally specific.
    You wrote……
    I need a leaf of clarity to combat liminality;
    Confused, I burrow more.

    In one respect this is an essential part of his art as our confusion causes us to go deeper and stay with him while only needing a leaf of clarity to maintain our connection and interest. Also his chosen format of recorded music helps him here as it demands repetition unlike visual art. A painting is viewed once and then requires a return journey to view a second time. A book is read once then remembered as it sits on the shelf. A movie is viewed once with the visual images lingering long in the mind. Repeated readings and viewings usually happen only after a long time has passed.

    A commercial recording is a different experience. It needs to stand up to repeated playings one after another before it is shelved. There must be enough in it to maintain interest over a period of months or years. More importantly, there has to be enough promise in the next instalment to justify a repeat purchase. This cycle goes on for as long as the liminality can be sustained.

    A cynic would say that One Direction does the same thing as all commercial artists deal with the same pressures, which is true. Dylan has made a career out of disregarding audience expectations and repeatedly putting forward his intuitive creative ideas regardless of how confusing they seem. His skill and art rests in the ability to produce a gold leaf of clarity enough to maintain the value and even better, validate liminality as a permanent artistic state. The act of becoming is part of his process and result. Don’t fight it, embrace it! After all we are the ones who create the meaning in the songs for as long as we listen.

  • February 4, 2015 at 4:47 am

    The joy of Father and son sharing…..

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