The Creative Use of Figurative Language for Shaping The Poetic Text.

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Most people think of language as a clear and literal vehicle for communicating ideas in a precise manner. Even when we use language literally, however, misunderstandings arise and meanings shift. People can be intentionally or unintentionally ambiguous, although it seems that when a potentially ambiguous sentence is uttered by the speaker, usually only one of the meanings occurs to him(1). In other words, word denotations can suggest numerous meanings and connotations, either superficial or latent, depending on the context and the sensibility of a reader.

Moreover, we often use words figuratively. Figurative language is used in poetry and fiction, as well as in everyday speech. Most people do not think much about the language they use, and even if they do, they do not seem to realize that much of it comprises figures of speech. We use figures of speech all the time, for effect and for emphasis. Here, in the following example, guitarist Frank Zappa describes his love of his instrument:

If ever there's an obscene noise to be made on an instrument, it's going to come out of a guitar. On a saxophone you can play sleaze. On a bass you can play balls. But on a guitar you can be truly obscene... Let's be realistic about this, the guitar can be the single most blasphemous device on the face of the earth. That's why I like it... The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar: now that's my idea of a good time(2) .

This example of ordinary, everyday conversation contains many figures of speech, including metaphor and metonymy. Additionally, if the guitarist commented that his guitar was "singing", then this conversation would incorporate personification as well.

In poetry, however, figures of speech are used deliberately and with the poet's full awareness. The act of bringing words together to create rich and vigorous poetic lines is complex and demanding, chiefly because so many variables working together in such a condensed textual medium as poetry requires a strong degree of control. There are the "thought processes" of the lines themselves, their verbal texture, their emotional resonance, and the developing perspective of the reader - all these to be managed at once. One of the poet's chief resources toward this end is figurative language. Here, as in matters of metre, one may distinguish between a great variety of devices, some of which we use in everyday speech without special awareness of their names and natures.(3)

Philosophers, rhetoricians, linguists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and teachers of literature have long studied the way language works, and have classified various figures of speech, or tropes. We use literal language when we intend to describe things and actions directly; in tropes, we intentionally use words to communicate other, hidden, or shifting meanings. Apart from imagery, symbolism and irony, three further figures of speech deserve more attention: metaphor, metonymy and personification.

Metaphor(4&5) is defined as the use of words or pictures to compare one thing to something else. If one says, "politicians are a bunch of pigs at a trough,'' we know it means that they are selfish and greedy. Additionally, if this particular comparison had contained words such as "like" or "as,'' it would be regarded as a simile. Logically, similes are true, and metaphors are false; similes say what is and metaphors say what is not. It is surprising therefore that in everyday speech we use metaphors more often than we use similes.

Metonymy(4&5) is a figure of speech that replaces the name of one thing with the name of something else closely associated with it, e.g. the bottle for alcoholic drink, the press for journalism, skirt for woman. A well-known metonymic saying is the pen is mightier than the sword.

Personification(4&5) is a figure of speech by which animals, abstract ideas, or inanimate things are referred to as if they were human.

Imagery(4&5) is a more general term...
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