When I saw Jan Zwicky’s latest book, Wisdom and Metaphor (Gaspereau Press) on the shelf at a local bookstore, I bought a copy for myself and another as a birthday gift for a friend. When I got home, there was a package waiting for me on my doorstep and inside was yet another copy of the book, sent to me by another friend. This book wanted me as much as I wanted it, and I spent the evening and the night leafing through the pages while my brain did backbends to follow Zwicky’s thinking.
Wisdom and Metaphor is laid out with Zwicky’s writing on the left-hand pages and the writing of another philosopher or poet on the right-hand pages, so that the book reads as a kind of conversation, an exchange of ideas between writers. The effect is absorbing, for the reader becomes privy to the route by which the author developed her thinking. At times the writing is poetic and revelatory and at times simple thoughts are unnecessarily weighed down by complex jargon, but I persevered and I’m glad.
This book gave me a deeper appreciation for the role that metaphor plays in our perception of the relationships between things. In a discussion of image, symbol, space, gestalt, language and connectedness, Zwicky suggests that wisdom comes from seeing the likeness in two seemingly unlike aspects, and that those who think metaphorically are the harbingers of this understanding.
The passages she quotes build on this idea, and the built-in dialogue leaves room for the reader to somersault alongside her.