In Kathi Wolfe’s introduction to We Are Not Your Metaphor: a disability poetry anthology, she writes about the long literary tradition of using disability as a metaphor for all things bad: “How often have you read poems that use blindness as a metaphor for spiritual ignorance, unthinking faith, or moral failings? Or deafness used as a metaphor for isolation, aloneness — a failure to emotionally communicate? Think: world of darkness. Deaf ears.
“… that which is sacrificed (the lamb, the deer, the ram, the boy, the girl, the body) and that to which it is sacrificed (the prima causa, but of course if it needs sacrifice to function then isn’t the sacrifice itself the prima causa?) call out to each other with images of flora and fauna…”
In December of 1921, a 22-year-old Jorge Luis Borges published “Ultraísmo” in the Argentine journal Nosotros. The editors wrote that his short article was the initial entry in a series of studies about the avant-gardes, recognizing perhaps that the moment of the ultraísta movement had already passed (a few months later, the key journal Ultra ceased publication). While the avant-garde principles of ultraísmo would continue to inform the work of many poets both Spanish and Latin American, by 1921 the movement qua movement was drawing still. But for the literary establishment, understanding ultraísmo was just beginning, and thus Borges’s essay was an attempt to assert the new literary ethic through accounting, a manifesto in reverse.
The ocean is a place of the fantastic and bizarre, a world full of creatures so different from our terrestrial designs they might as well be from another planet. Rightfully, then, the ocean is also a metaphor for the unconscious, that unseen place off the map of ourselves where the old cartographers would write “where monsters lie.”
Stephen Nelson’s Dance of Past Lives is an array of alphabetic pas de deux. Duets de Y. The letter as body. As body text. An abstract dance, wise metaphorms meta(phor)morpho-singing into stars, trees, other symbols. Y is another. An A. A tittle or jot as ball, sun, rayless star. I-less is another.
Antibodies are y-shaped. Texts are (wh)y-shaped. Y? Not because (Y)YOLO.
An array of past whys. Whysdom. What were our letters in a past life? How did we read?