In-Depth Look: Hanif Abdurraqib – “Watching A Fight At The New Haven Dog Park”
Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
“And I too, dress for the hell I want, and not the hell that is most likely coming.” ———
In school, I remember learning about metaphor, but it was always tied to learning about simile. Part of the “lesson” was being able to differentiate the two, and I think that because of that, a lot of us still tend to think about metaphor in an overly specific way. “It’s like a simile, but doesn’t use like.” We so often see metaphor as another tool in the toolbox, and not something more fundamental to the craft of poetry; less screwdriver or pliers, more hands.
As this poem demonstrates, metaphor is so much more than a one-line comparison between two images or ideas. It’s about world-building. It’s about how we interface with reality through the telling of stories, or the sharing of images. And because that process is messy, metaphors can be messy too– they’re not always perfectly-balanced equations. The swirling imagery in this poem– from the dogs, to their owners, to the memory of another fight, to the more concrete flashes of blood, teeth, and fists– it all pushes us deeper into the poem’s reality, closer to the nuanced point that Abdurraqib is making.