The poeson

De Waal uses a concept which he calls the poeson when he is writing poetry. He doesn’t regard it as a literary theory, although it can be used to increase one’s understanding of a poem.

Here is a very simplistic definition of the poeson.

Poeson definition

A poeson is a set of metaphors entangled in such a way as to link seemingly unrelated concepts meaningfully in a poem.

Here is a somewhat expanded explanation of the poeson.

In the website “” the following statement about the nature of poetry can also serve as a partial defintion of a poeson:

“A good poem lies somewhere beyond mere words: it is the intangible, an exultation in things vaguely apprehended, something which emerges out of its own form, and which cannot exist without that form. – C. John Holcombe”

Poesons are a type of building block, larger in extent than  single words,  that are used to construct a poem.

Word order, aspects of words, entanglement and connotation all play parts in forming the structure of a poeson.

Poesons make it possible for the poet to entangle concepts in a subtle way – concepts that are not necessarily in close proximity to each oher in the structure of the poem.

In essence poesons are sets of related connotations, or Gestalts, that re-inforce each other in making a poem a powerful statement, rich in meaning and emotive power.

The mindmap below the poem gives a visual impression of aspects of the poem’s poesons.

Invitation to drink a glass of wine

Let us drink a glass of wine together,
if you find it convenient.

Why would I invite you
to indulge in this ritual?
I have not analysed the reasons,
worrying that it would destroy
the value and meaning of it;
a grape being peeled, pitted
and split under unkind neon light,
and pulled apart chromatographically.

Rather converse with the wine,
move your tongue in sensual curves;
invite into the heaven of your mouth
the tangs of wood, berry, citrus and basil,
the tartness of arrogant little acids
and the lurking smile of alcohol.

We can even share a thought or two
between us;
after all, we are both complicated beings,
running down with time,
gathering scraps of immortality
from which to construct gloves
for handling the rudeness of reality.

Let us drink a glass of wine together,
share some of the loss
we experience every moment,
some of the hard, animal joy
of  being alive.


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