Poetry 101: Metaphor
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A poet builds concepts metaphor by metaphor. Each metaphor is a bridge leading the reader to more full understanding of whatever the writer is describing. Despite how frequently we use metaphors, however, many writers are confused about the word’s meaning.
Metaphor: A metaphor is a direct, non-literal comparison made between two dissimilar objects, actions, or traits.
In plain English: When you describe a person, place, thing, or action as being something else, even though it isn’t actually that “something else,” you’re speaking metaphorically. “He was the black sheep of the family” is a metaphor because he isn’t a sheep and may not even be black. However, we can use this comparison to draw associations between the black sheep and the person: Black sheep are unusual and typically stay away from their herd, and the person you’re describing shares those characteristics.
If the comparison isn’t direct, it’s not a metaphor. If the comparison is literal, it’s not a metaphor.
Metaphors are often formed as “Subject + is + [metaphoric comparison].” For example, “Her heart is a volcano” or “My brothers are cheeky little monkeys.” More advanced comparisons are certainly also possible, such as “The volcano in her chest erupted.”
This is a subject we’ve written about extensively here on the Creative Writing Guild. For a whole lot more on this topic, check out our metaphor lesson series.
Metaphor Mad Libs
To demonstrate this concept of metaphors more directly, let’s play a game of Mad Libs:
Don’t do it!
Did you get all of your items? Not yet?
Okay … now?
Here you go!
All the world’s a ____1____.
(All the world’s a stage.)
Dying is a ____2____ ______3____.
(Dying is a wild night.)
Conscience is a man’s ____4____.
(Conscience is a man’s compass.)
Love is a ____5_____.
(Love is a battlefield.)
A woman without a man is a ____6_____ without a _____7____.
(A woman without a man is a fish without a bicycle.)
Books are the ____8_____ of the soul.
(Books are the mirrors of the soul.)
Religion is the ___9_____ of the masses.
(Religion is the opiate of the masses.)
Memories are ____10_____.
(Memories are bullets.)
Some Intentional Metaphors
Now do it on purpose. Write out a five of your own metaphors.
Once you’re done, share your results and mad lib findings in the comments, below!