Making Meaning

Using the texts: "Metaphors" by Sylvia Plath "Introduction to poetry" by Billy Collins and "The lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara, how do we make meaning and how is meaning imposed upon us?

In this paper, I will discuss how poems create their versions of reality, and how we all view life through a lens that society gives us via poems. Cultures have been evolving from the building blocks of poems as they respond to the human and physical environment. We develop and use the cognitive meanings inherited from poems in a random way. Reality exists beyond the construction of society. Some meanings are developed as a result of the interpretation of the available evidence. Using the texts: "Metaphors" by Sylvia Plath "Introduction to poetry" by Billy Collins and "The lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara, this paper will illustrate how meaning is made and how it is imposed upon individuals.

The above texts explore unlikely connections, and it seems that we do the same in life. In a poem entitled "Metaphors", Sylvia Plath claimed that, all other thinking is a metaphor except scientific and mathematical thinking.  Plath says education through poetry is like education through metaphor. For us to create a meaning, we have to press this and that together. “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins, is a poem developed on the belief that students of high school must get regular exposure to poems. However, this exposure should not be an academic requirements. In his poem, he suggests that there should be no content, lectures, and tests (Rhode, 2006).

“Introduction to Poetry” is a stand-alone poem that examines the contrast between meanings imposed on us and the actual encounter in life. Judging from how Collins describes the encounter between students and the poem, I would guess that the poem is a great way of how we make meaning (Strong, 2012). As we all know, we would not create meaning by tying a poem to a chair to beat a confession out of it. Collins suggests that we should torture confession from poems to create a meaning. He suggests that we should approach a poem as if it was a puzzle meaning that we would be rewarded by figuring out the meaning of the poem. This approach of creating a meaning is recommended rather than creating a meaning through the experience one has with a poem (Strong, 2012).                          

Meanings are created by visiting host cities and places around the world with open minded intentions of exploring and discovering. We are encouraged to conduct inquiries and explore the possibilities that make our own discoveries and meanings. Learning is imposed on us rather than being told what we need to know and exactly how we can create meaning. We are taught the meaning of different things in life, and this makes us fit in the society.

So we have already established one way of how we create meaning and how meaning is imposed on us. Collins pushes us to play in the dark. His poem makes us have the complexity of glimmers and emotions without imposing the need for an answer. This means that the process of creating a meaning takes time (Rhode, 2006). Further, we have to struggle so that we can understand, thus, feeling like we are in darkness; however, we should not be frustrated when we seek to find a meaning. In creating a meaning, complexity and ambiguity is welcomed. We are encouraged to reflect as away of reaching a deeper meaning (Rhode, 2006). Multiple layers and perspectives of meanings are nurtured through reflective practices. Collins encourages us to have trust in this process of creating a meaning. He says that we should resist artificial light and past answers. We should play in the dark because by struggling to reflect, we obtain an in-depth understanding, thus, creating a meaning (Rhode, 2006).

So far, we have talked about two ways of creating, and how meanings are imposed on us: playing in the dark and pressing this and that together. The last concept that I will explore is that creating a meaning requires co-conspirator. “Meaning is only reconstituted by our act of reading and understanding, the letters otherwise quite helpless on the page”.   We create meaning by transacting with the poem. Looking at Toni Cade Bambara’s poem "The lesson", we can see this sense of co-conspirator.  The poem wishes that our experience with the poem could be in the following way: “I want them to waterski/across the surface of a poem/waving at the author’s name on the shore.” The above metaphor shows that the author of the poem is on the shore. He is expectantly waiting as the students ski in the water. They are celebrating together with him as he shares his experience. These scenarios show that the students are co-conspirators who have been created (Bambara, 2007).  Creating a meaning is a shared act of reflective discourse in the community. It is a dynamic collaboration of living and changing ideas that transform into meanings. As well, all know, the texts encourage us to create meanings by collaborating. Both poems focus on engaging and encouraging us to bring our insights and independent thinking together, thus, transforming the meaning. We should conspire to create a meaning (Strong, 2012).

On the other hand, after reading "The Lesson," by Toni Cade Bambera, I have better understanding of how meanings are created and imposed on us. As Sylvia and her friends walk through the slums, it creates a meaning of the kind of environment they come from. This also shows the type of education they received and their economic situation. This creates a meaning that there is a difference between the world where Sylvia lives and a Fifth Avenue world.  As the poem develops, we get a glimpse of how teachers play role in how we create meanings. This is through Miss Moore who lends the children money, thus, creating a meaning to the value of money and work. When the children arrive at the store, they comprehend how some people can spend so much on toys (Bambara, 2007). 

The author uses ghetto names to give a meaning to children living in the slums. The poem uses a simple theme to illustrate the disparity between the rich and the poor in a rich country (Bambara, 2007). Miss More is used as a teacher to show that we can create a meaning through education by understanding what life on both tracks look like. Similarly, the poem gives us an opportunity to observe life from a society’s point of view rather than the narrator’s point of view. The poem reflects on numerous reflections of serious problems that exist in the current society. Lack of proper education resulted in a poor understanding and meaning of life (Bambara, 2007). This situation has been made worse by parents who have failed to take up their responsibility for their kids and the huge financial gap in the current society. Just like Sylvia Plath and Billy Collins, Toni Cade Bambera has given us an opportunity to view life through the eyes of a pre-teen and street smart kid and realize that we have a lot to learn in the unfair world (Bambara, 2007). 

Sylvia Plath's poem "Metaphors” is a real example of how meanings are imposed on us. The poem consists of lines with only nine syllables. This is actually a ridicule as shown in the first line (Patterson & Adams, 2007). She uses descriptions and images to indicate that she is in a state of pregnancy. The poem has an amp and simple title that reflects exactly the meaning of each line (Patterson & Adams, 2007). Throughout the poem, we can hear a collection of ideas especially at the beginning of the second line. The ponderous houses and elephants symbolizes bulky and large things; this is how Plath feels about her body due to the heavy pregnancy. In the third line, we get to know that Plath’s Plath has a round belly and her legs are thin (Patterson & Adams, 2007). The poem uses metaphors to indicate Plath’s fertility. The red fruit means the "fruit of thy womb" and this means that she is having a child. Fine timbers and ivory are used to mean that Plath is her child's home until she delivers (Patterson & Adams, 2007).

The first six lines mean that there is a celebration as the pregnancy is described in a playful manner. However, reaching at the seventh line, the poem seems to take a turn. The metaphor "a means, a stage, a cow in calf," does not have any joy in relation to the pregnancy. All theses mean that Plath is just an instrument through which a baby has to be born. She lacks the maternal feeling. This creates a feeling that Plath is like a stage for performance (Raza, 2012).

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