“Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” E M Sherwood Foster (Yavanika Press) – book review

E M Sherwood Foster Plato is Better At Metaphor than I Am book cover

Yavanika Press is affliated with Sonic Boom magazine and favours short-forms in poetry and prose. E M Sherwood Foster’s “Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” is a short e-chapbook of short prose which open out from the title and play with imagery and ideas branching out from it. It makes it tricky to extract quotes. For example, “Once the opulent, FEVERISH forests of our minds were mappable roads—” (complete poem),

“Two and a HALF steps from our imaginations. Our journey, an UNHOLY conception. We step through that exacting granite door, smelling the BITTER herb of smoke with roses, where once mayflower children frolicked through our psyches. We feel the crunches of civilizations BURNING, burning as we step toward heaven, through CALCULATING ruby woods smoldering. Shells open, eyes SHUT, seeing red behind their twilight lids. Subsiding, KISSING the embers. Where did we go when we entered the promised land? Every sign is BLANK.”

The images capture what might lie behind the known. Known things can be categorised and mapped. Imagination that might sneak off on detours or revive memories triggered by senses isn’t categorisable or mappable. Here, smoke, which could be incense, is tempered with flowers then the imagination switches to the colour red, particularly fire which is fuelled by wood. By the end of the poem the travellers have forgotten their purpose and find no signs to get them back on track.

Later that track emerges on volcanic St Helena, in “The abstract flavor of life is ALWAYS pungent—” (complete poem)

“It envelopes itself, inside our frayed ORANGE bodies, thrashing itself alive. Circling, CIRCLING, dragons never satisfied when earthly love grows stale. Like a cloying, ELECTRIFIED taste down our throats, what we once thought sweet we VOMIT. Lodged within us, just above our diaphragms. FABLED glory, the forked road we follow synonymous with the STAKE, hanging in the discharged ash. St. Helena has come down to BLIND us. Our feet are autonomous, the ground we TRED never sacred. But in our glassware eyes and marble hands, something starts growing there.”

The images are of human bodies trapped in lava. People who thought life blessed and free, trapped in one of the worst ways possible. A note of hope creeps in at the end, that nature beings to reclaim this ashen landscape. It’s a quiet note, though, being the second sentence that doesn’t have a word that’s all in capitals. The capitalised words relate to elements out of control of the apparent narrators, principally the lava. Whereas the two without captialised words are internalised.

Later, the element changes from fire to water, “Insatiability is the highest form of f/l/a/t/t/e/r/y when it comes to water—”,

“The cycles going through our b\o\d\i\e\s and out of our bodies, and so on. This water is clownish. It goes against its nature. It’s as permanent as the s/c/a/r/s on our lips and the lies in our bones. Dragonflies come to deliver a nasty bite. But why do we stick our feet into the s\t\r\e\a\m\s like a glowing Europa, before being dragged under by a vengeful God? Dragonflies continue s/i/n/g/i/n/g. They are then tattooed onto our scalps. There are too many people, talking, talking, talking. This must be the last s\t\e\p we take, before jumping back into where we’ve been.”

The direction of the obliques change like a wave rippling onto shore and then drawing back, creating a sense of an ongoing cycle: like an inhalation and then exhalation of breath.

“Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” is a collection of poetic prose designed to be read, savoured and read again. Ideas branch out from their starting point and hop from image to image, reflecting a thinking process where a mind works on an idea, reaches a junction, diverts and returns both rippling out from and circling back to the original point. A gently-written collection with startling ideas.

“Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” is available from Yavanika Press.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.


2 Responses to ““Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” E M Sherwood Foster (Yavanika Press) – book review”

  1. “Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” E M Sherwood Foster (Yavanika Press) – book review Says:

    […] “Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” E M Sherwood Foster (Yavanika Press) – book review […]

  2. Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 7 – Via Negativa Says:

    […] Emma Lee, “Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” E M Sherwood Foster (Yavanika Press) – book review […]

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