What Makes For a Good Symbol in Poetry?

I thought the idea of a mountain above the clouds, as an expression of the depressurized atmospheres of the grasslands, would make a great symbol. So I made an image of it. Here it is.



So, that was a simple mirroring.  Call that the first level of symbolism. I went on to make a few other images, trying different angles and approaches. Here’s an interesting one.


See that? The mountain is still there, but the ripples on the lake have turned it more into a language of ripples than an expression of the mountain. Call this the second level of symbolism. As I walked along (and the mountain and its reflection kept pace with me) I came above a willow branch that some sloppy beavers had left lying around, so I lined that up and made an image of it, too.


Call this the third level of symbolism: the deliberate arrangement of artifacts replacing the mirror image of the mountain with something else altogether. Then, my camera’s light sensors gave me a gift (when I crouched down lower to the water).



Call this the fourth level of symbolism. Lake and sky are mirrored now, while mountain and branch are the same shade. What’s more, because of tricks of reflection the branch is in both water and air, embodying the entire photograph on a structural level. And, yeah, like all symbols it means nothing. It is the way things are. If meaning is attached to it, you can be sure it’s extraneous to the symbol. After all, this is the first part of the symbol…


…and this is the second …


What creates a symbol is a view that crosses between them. And that’s your story.




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