In Extremis Extreme (Essay)

I’ve had the displeasure of perusing some contracts written up by the studios trying to either tie up your professional name or trying to buy the universal rights to some artistic work. The legalese in some of these documents delves into the ridiculous. They will say something such as:

“Artist or entity known currently as Fulano De Tal, and otherwise known as any other name, pseudonym, sobriquet, nickname, symbol, number, written, heard, felt, or acknowledged in any way and in any language or any types of communication known to man or any other cognitive being, implied or consented, past, present, and future, through any means whatsoever, be that through sound waves, light waves, microwaves, or any known or unknown device yet to be invented or discovered, and which universal rights revert to the purchaser of the rights as indicated in this contract, and by universal rights these rights include any country or governing authority known on earth, also the known and unknown universe, or any other parallel or multi-universes, which can ever be known, discovered, or imagined….”

Contracts are now written in this extreme manner to keep artists such as Prince and Sean Combs from breaking their contracts by changing their names multiple times or using a symbol or moving to Tortola and setting up a separate production company. The extreme to which the contracts extends their rights is funny and hilarious.

Which brings me to poetry, or rather, what NOT to do in poetry. And I only mention this because I am so guilty of this myself, the phenomena of what I call “in extremis extreme metaphor,” that is, when a poet wants to convey the depth and acute feeling of their image or angst that they automatically go for the most overdramatic simile imaginable.

Example: The birds fed in the birdbath like harpies from hell screaming down and gorging in the black waters of my drowned soul.

I’ve read so many poems whose inherent anguish is so multiplied in this ridiculous manner that my first reaction after reading the poem is “just go kill yourself already.” The reaction nullifies intent because poems written in extremis do not connect with most readers and the poems really do sound like juvenilia, goth kids juvenilia, goth kids crying in the middle of a candle lit pentagram in an underground nuclear bunker juvenilia (see what I mean?)

And when such extreme metaphors are coupled with the absolutely mundane then the poem becomes hilarity personified without reason.

Example: I picked my nose like a crane driven by Beelzebub digging out the darkest recesses of my damned soul.

The worst kind of in extremis extreme is the clever poet trying to make a statement about poetry itself and then the poem becomes a meta-poem on the meta-state of poetry and then the irony found in the poem is too exquisite for words.

My point is that all poets need to simply try to find the perfect metaphor whenever possible. Not all feelings are in articulo mortis, life and death. A poet is better served by a succinct and clear metaphor, such as the one exemplified by The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams, than by sounding off like Bukowski announcing the next wrestler at Wrestlemania Smackdown!

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About Rumrazor

Just a malcontent surviving in Los Angeles, working the news, writing the poetry, making the films.
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