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August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Meta Free for All

Stephen Colbert and Sean Penn in a metaphor-off. U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky adjudicates. This might be the greatest thing I have ever seen.

April 24, 2007 / Uncategorized


When I saw this, I laughed so hard that I soiled President Bush’s blood-soaked underwear.

A fair number of the metaphors used in the meta-free for all are original — or rather, strings of cliches. But a handful use some pretty sharp literary allusions.

1. “Shall I nail thee to a summer’s day?” — William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18.

2. “Meta force be with you.” — George Lucas, Star Wars.

3. “Stephen, I’m gonna knock you down like a patient etherised upon a table.” — TS Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

4. “The resonating grail of memory.” — Robert Pinsky, “Ginza Samba.”

5. “The sorrow gathered in ruffles at his throat and cuffs.” — Robert Pinsky, “At Pleasure Bay.”

6. Robert Pinsky, “Samurai Song,” and Robert Frost, “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening.”

7. “Dick Cheney is a shattered visage, half-sunk in the sand, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read.” — Percy Bysse Shelley, “Ozymandias.”

8. “Love is a battlefield.” Pat Benatar, s/t

9. “Oh yeah.” Sean Penn as Sam Dawson, I Am Sam.

10. “Yes.” Sean Penn as Matthew Poncelet, Dead Man Walking.

11. “Yeah!” Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times At Ridgemont High.


I was disappointed Pinsky wasn’t using his typical recitation voice, which is bizarrely over-enunciated and yet pleasing. From this page you can supposedly listen to him reading “The Shirt” (if you have real player). I love the last few lines of that poem, especially as read by Pinsky.

#7 is amazing. AMAZING.

Ozymandias was the first poem I had to memorize in school, and I laughed so hard I literally almost fell off my chair and had to pause the video. Thank god for watching TV on the internet!

I saw/heard Pinsky in NYC for a rehearsal of Prairie Home Companion.

I met Pinsky in ’02 in Chicago, where he was trying to get his Favorite Poem Project videos off the ground. (The FPP grew out of his work as poet laureate; I don’t think any other poet laureate has rode that honor as long or as well as Pinsky. Or to use the title he says he prefers, “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.”)

One thing that doesn’t totally come across in the Colbert video is his charm/humor. He’s a genuinely nice, funny guy. Sharp dresser, too.

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