Before this continues, I would like to point out that I was not being "strictly literal," whatever that means. That is an interpretation but not what I said. So please leave my name off this line.

Words clearly depend on context, but there are limits to transpositions of parts of speech. One would not, I think, read a word like, say, "apple" and read it as "appling" and say that a line containing "the apple is red" can be interpreted as "the act of going to pick apples is communist."

It is precisely the intersection of a range of significations and their syntactical position that constrains meaning; poems or any texts are not without some such constraints.

>>> Marcia Karp 02/22/10 7:47 PM >>> 
Thank you, Carrol, for this. 

Carrol Cox wrote: 
> Diana Manister wrote: 
>> Dear Nancy, 
>> I think it's counterproductive to be strictly literal about meanings 
>> in poetry. 
> Probably not possible. And if one wants to try to be literal, the place 
> to start is with "literal," which if understood literally means 
> focusingon the letters, their sounds, the progression of those sounds, 
> etc etc. It would be the equivalent of geting so close to Picaso's 
> Gurnica that all the lines and shapes disappeared and all one was 
> examing were the brush strokes. As soon as you go by that 'level,' 
> youcan no longer be literal, for words literally focused on are 
> literally unitelligible. Look at "strokes" above. Does it refer to 
> strokes of an oar, a medical condition, parts of love-making, parts of a 
> lashing abut the fleet in the Royal Navy of the early 19th-c, instances 
> (as in "strokes of luck"), a misprint for "sokes" as in "stoes the 
> fireplace") or for "spokes" (as in a wheel), and so forth. (These are 
> the kinds of difficulties, incidentally, that those who cry for a 
> "literal" interpretation of the Constituion purposely ignore, for to 
> take them into consideration is to show their hypocrisy.) To escape the 
> trap of literalism means putting the letters, and thus the word, in some 
> context, that is to identify the genre of the sentence, or larger unit, 
> in which the word appears. (This is one version of what is called the 
> hermeneutic circle: one must understand the whole to understand the 
> parts but the whole can only be understood by understandin the words. It 
> can be either a vicious or benevolent circle. And at that point it 
> really becomes complicated.) 
> Carrol