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This article is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

Metaphors of Place Mairi MacInnes

When we go to school, what we know ourselves is measured against the body of knowledge that comes down to us. Gradually we learn to use the language in which that body of knowledge is expressed in order to render the first, solitary, personal kind, for in itself that personal kind is pre-literate - unverbal, even. Of course, though it is pre-literate, the personal knowledge continually tests the validity of the traditional or school knowledge. Indeed, its own authenticity is so great that it can quite overwhelm language. The apprehension of place, for example, can be as awkward to pass on as that single eye passed between the Fates. Yet it is one of the most important of the factors that shape and govern us, and as such it rushes out as one of the great springs of poetry. If this apprehension weren't a good deal more than visible, and the element of its continuity in a man's life and in human history weren't important, place might best be left to painters to render. The number of poems written about paintings, especially in America, bears witness, I think, to the present gap between poet and his first-hand grasp of the material world. But poetry continues to suggest that place and its objects hold meaning that demand to be examined, and yet are not.

I want to write here of some of the metaphors that poets use to render the primary knowledge of place, as well as of ...


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