Thursday, September 28, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Synaesthesia

When I saw this week's topic for Poetry Thursday I thought of one of my favourite lines of poetry:

the afternoon was warm like a blue oboe.

This comes from a poem called "the assumption of mr dickson into the order of domestic cats" which is in a book, Sleeper by New Zealand poet John Dickson. I pulled my copy from the shelf and also found this, in a poem called "to start with"

perhaps a patch of blue sky will lose its way
and all those feelings beyond your bewareness
especially those that taste of the dense
bitter smell of apples rotting in paradise
hatred, sadness, rage, despair
will vanish to laughter, or even, a smile.

Is the author synaesthetic? Probably not. Synaesthesia - the mixing of the senses - is far more than being able to come up with a particularly striking metaphor. I can imagine what the taste or smell of an emotion might be, but that's different from permanently sensing it that way - for instance, instantly seeing spiky triangles when I smell lavender, or blue when I hear the word Tuesday.

I did some searching on google, and came up with an interesting website on synaesthesia with lots of fascinating links. There are some claimed examples of synaesthesia in poetry, but I couldn't really see it myself. I think the ones I have quoted above are far better examples. I did find an interesting link to a synaesthetic photographer. There is lots more that I have yet to explore.

As for a poem of my own this week, I would need far more time to come up with something as good as the quotes above. However, here is my rather hasty contribution.

The Synaesthete in the Garden

It is, he thinks, something planted by a Schoneberg
or a Stockhausen - roses and cornflowers,
poppies and delphiniums
all discordant seconds, sevenths,
augmented fifths. He braces himself
as he reaches the bend in the path
round which lies the herb garden.
Their fragrances mingle -
a clash of shapes
verticals, diagonals and spirals.
He lowers his gaze,
murmurs to himself
"Saturday, Saturday, Saturday"
carries its cool amethyst sound before him
like a shield.


Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Oh, very very well done, Catherine! *applause* A fine poem!

BessieSnickers said...

Wow - I think you captured what I imagine synthesia to be, and what it is like to live with it. I agree, well done.

wendy said...

i love the description in shapes and spiral. Very multi dimensional!

brian said...

Now you see Catherine, I like your poem better than mine because you have captured a truer representation of the prompt. Thanks for the links, I just can't imagine taking photographs based on what you hear ot taste.

Anonymous said...

Lovely, beautiful color for your Saturday

desert rat said...

A true blending of the senses, nicely done.

Verity said...

What a beautiful post. I struggled with this and am embarrassed with my attempt, which seems very gauche in comparison with yours. Well done.

Tammy Brierly said...

You did a fantastic job with the prompt! I love how you see color in a day of the week.

Stick it in your eyes said...

Lovely poem. Very appropriate to the topic.

Anonymous said...

Well first, I love Schoneberg and I could really see, or rather hear, the flowers in the garden. And the bit about Saturday being a shield is brilliant. This is freaking great.

Deb R said...

Catherine, I think this poem is SO cool! It seems to me like you've captured the essense of synaesthesia perfectly.

(I want to read the articles you found, but am running short on time so I'll revisit those another day.)

michelle said...

I love this:

"cool amethyst sound before him
like a shield"

I can almost see the form of sound here. Well done!

Anonymous said...

OH, I like this, very much. I love the rhythm of it, too.