Similes, Metaphors and Poetry Threads, Oh My!

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Most of us learned that similes were comparisons using the words „like“ or „as“ by second or third grade, so that’s all we’ll say on that section of our imagery toolbox.

Unless you’ve studied poetry or writing further, you may not be as familiar with the metaphor or poetry thread (aka extended metaphor).

Metaphor

In life, as in baseball, we must leave the dugout of complacency, step up to the home plate of opportunity, adjust the protective groin cup of caution and swing the bat of hope at the curve ball of fate, hoping that we can hit a line drive of success past the shortstop of misfortune, then sprint down the base path of chance, knowing that at any moment we may pull the hamstring muscle of inadequacy and fall face-first onto the field of failure, where the chinch bugs of broken dreams will crawl into our nose.

— Dave Barry

Above is a quote overflowing with metaphor. Even though he goes overboard for comedic effect, they are all fine examples of what a metaphor is.

Perfecting your use of metaphor is essential to writing in general, but in creating poetry it is imperative. A creative metaphor in a poem makes it sing like the angels and a poor one, or none at, all could have your poem falling flat and off key.

Example:

In life, as in baseball, we must leave the dugout of complacency (Dave Barry)

OR

You can’t stay in the dugout – even though it’s nice and you’re happy there

Why use a metaphor, why not just say it like it is?

Well you could, and that might be your personal writing style, but a metaphor takes your reader on a tantalizing journey, riding your words as if they’re on the Orient Express. With it, you offer a bountiful feast for the eyes and the imagination rather than having a grilled cheese in a closet. Most readers enjoy using their minds like a tongue – wrapping it around your poem relishing the exploration in the taste of it all.

Weave a Deeper Meaning With Poetry Threads

A poetry thread, also known as an extended metaphor, takes a single metaphor and stretches it through a large section of, or the entire poem.

Imagine your poem is a quilt. Each square of fabric is a word and the stitches that hold them all together are your extended metaphor. This thread gently tugs your reader along through your piece and creates a deeper meaning and a more vivid picture within their mind

Start with a simple metaphor, let’s go with your puppy is a vehicle. Now here is an example of extending that metaphor:

My puppy is a car

that drives me quite insane.

When I’m ready for the parking garage

He’s revving for a freeway lane.

His engines roar whenever

he wants to go for a romp.

He races right on over me

before I can holler, „STOP!“

Notice how I’ve taken the metaphor and expanded on it? I’ve taken elements of driving (i.e. Parking garage, revving, engines, races, and freeway lane) and show the reader how on earth my puppy is a car.

I’ve used a silly example because they’re fun, but it works equally well in more serious poetry or even essays, fiction and more.

Whether you wrap your reader in a comforter, family heirloom quilt or itchy wool blanket, you’ve given them another dimension with which to embrace your work.

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