Life is a Stage

Today, before reading my poem, I invite you to read my post over @ Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads. In it, I share musings on poetry, writing & metaphor. The use of metaphor in language increases not only its beauty, but also its depth and power. It is no wonder to me that poetry is where we find metaphor in droves, whether concrete or abstract – it is the associations of words with images, sounds, smells & textures that makes it rich. Indeed, metaphor makes us aware of our own unique experiences. Suffice to say, I could write endlessly & perhaps complete a dissertation on the subject. While my post is unapologetically academic in tone, it isn’t for students alone – it’s for all humans who seek to know the world, what it means to them, and the myriad of ways in which we can express understanding through language.

My poem is also published in Space to Dream: Poems. I wrote it as a young woman, when I was embarking on the beginning of my journey in higher education as a music major. It is perhaps the largest metaphor that has shaped my life, for much of my experience has been either onstage or offstage in preparation for a performance. The stage, which may be a frightening space for some – has always been a place of refuge & safety to me. I close my eyes & feel a deep comfort in remembering the scent & feel of the curtains, that creaky spot in the backstage floorboards, the heat of the lights, the frenetic sounds of the orchestra tuning their instruments, the dust clouds in the prop room & the pitter-patter of dancers in soft shoe warming up.

Oliver, Hayden Auditorium, circa 1987
Show choir performance, Hayden Auditorium, circa 1989
ISU Madrigal Dinner Performance, 1999

ISU Madrigals concert, Center for the Performing Arts, 2000

Meet Me in St. Louis, Players Theatre, 2004
Greenville Chamber Singers concert, Biltmore Estate, 2007
Northshore Performing Arts concert, Fuhrmann Auditorium, 2013

These are some of the many performance memories I carry with me. I often joke that I could chart my life by the choirs that I’ve sung in and the theatres I’ve performed in, but there is truth in that jest. The time spent preparing for, as well as the performances themselves  – have become metaphors for my life just as the stage itself has, even at a time in my life when the offstage days of motherhood and writing have become my focus, with onstage performances becoming fewer.

My stage will always be there, all I have to do is look out into the light to see it.

Kiss me Kate, Little Theatre, 2014

Life is a Stage 

On my stage, time runs


as I stand alone, content

to be with my music

It hold me with strong arms

that never let go.

On my stage, bright lights

blind me from seeing

those I know, and

I may be imperfect

but I am never wrong.

On my stage, I make the

decisions of who I want to be

and where I will go.

No one disagrees

and no one questions me.

On my stage

there is a foundation that holds me

when I doubt myself.

My music gives me confidence

it will never let me fall.

Who Killed the Kilt, La Fleur De Lis, 2015

On my stage, I can only

go forward, I can only

become brighter

until I reach perfection

only then does the applause come.

On my stage, I will smile

my heart fulfilled

then the lights will dim

and I will walk from my stage,


Copyright 1/19/2017 Stacie Eirich

Originally published in Space to Dream: Poems 

Kiss Me Kate, Little Theatre, 2014

Blithe Spirit, Playmakers Theatre, 2015

On Writing, Poetry and Metaphor

I read an article over at today that has me thinking on the use of metaphor in writing. As a former writing teacher and lifelong poetry reader and writer, this is not something new to me – in fact, in graduate school one could argue that I spent entire semesters discussing it. I don’t believe that language can ever really exist separate from images and sounds in our minds – there will always be points of intersection as we read and experience any text. However, what I found in my experiences as reader, writer, teacher – is that the metaphors people use will be specific — inspiring sometimes to many, and sometimes only to ourselves. Why does poetry seem to be the medium that contains the most powerful, the most universal metaphors for human experience? To answer that once again, I had to look back at some of my favorite books on poetry and the insights I took from them.

Do you need to be a student or an “academic” to read these? Absolutely not. You just need a passion for language and experience — for that which makes us human.

How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry 
Edward Hirsch 

He makes you conscious of where the readers exists in relation to the poem and how active and involved the reader becomes – how the reader acts on the poem and it in turn acts on them. “Poetry is a soul-making activity, and the reader in part authors that activity by responding to a form of the poem, its way of shaping itself.” (31). He takes an intensely personal route to understanding poetry, saying “read these poems to yourself in the middle of the night” at beginning and conclusion of his text.
Nine Gates: Entering The Mind of Poetry
Jane Hirschfield 
She makes you conscious of how you can look at poetry through a series of “gates” or devices that open up the mind of poetry to the reader. She makes one contemplate what is means for poetry to have a mind of its own, much like Hirsch invited the thought of how a poem itself is acting upon a reader. Hirschfield sets out the six energies that exist within poetry – organizing things that I already knew existed in text and understanding them as alive and central to a form or shape – or larger concentration or mode. I was most influenced by her chapter on translation. “In the act of true translation, as opposed to the act of parsing out meaning, there is a moment when all prior knowledge of a poem dissolves, when the words that were are shed as a snake sheds its skin and the words that are take on their own life.” (61). She speaks here about the self and the other in a poem, and how a translator much lose sense of two separate beings and become one. This is not unlike the process students go through when reading and writing poems; they originally approach the text as an “other”, and hopefully we (as teachers) are giving them the tools to use to bring that text into something that is understandable and therefore, no longer an other. However, in the case of translation, as Hirshfield says, “the issue is to what extent a new version can mirror the original, to what extent it must find some differing paths toward the same destination.” (65).
More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor
George Lakoff and Mark Turner
“One major mode of poetic thought is to take a conventionalized metaphor and extend it” (67). The image this conjures up in my mind is one of a flexible bending muscle in the brain; by introducing conceptual metaphor in our classrooms this is what we are asking students to do. We are asking them to take unconscious, but well known cultural, conventionalized metaphor that they hear and see and think of daily, and think about it in terms of poetry. By having students build a schema or organization system for a poem in order to understand it through first the images they see, and then the metaphorical associations these images or icons stand for and map to, they will be extending the language from the literal to the poetic, and their minds from the conventional to the abstract.