Emotion in Poetry: Using Metaphor and Simile

Poetry needs emotion, but we need to create emotion with words, the creation which is called imagery. To enhance the emotion of any writing, we can use poetic devices. Using metaphors or similies is one way to strengthen (intensify, vigorize expression, support, vitalize, justify, stimulate, enhance)emotion.

A metaphor is the comparison of two unlike things by saying one is the other. An eample would be “love is honey poured over life.” Love is not honey, but the comparison creates a mental image of sweetness added to life.

A simile is the comparison of two unlike things by saying one is like or as the other: “Love is like honey poured over life.”

Metaphors and similes are very like in what they do in writing. Both compare unlike things.

Remember the nursery rhyme, author unknown:

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

Comparing the star to a diamond is a simile. But that comparison doesn’t show about emotion, right?

So, let’s think of an emotion. Shame is an emotion that most people have felt one time or another. Now, to what can we compare shame?

Shame is like a dirty, smoothering blanket that clouds our sight. Shame is a monster that steals our self-worth. Shame makes us feel tarnished, unworthy, like a statue that has sat in the rain until worn and dull. Shame wraps us in gray, obscuring us from others’ love. That gives us a start for a poem that includes the emotion shame and some ideas for metaphors or similes.

by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

I stand nude before the world,
My faults and shortcomings
Exposed for all to see.
Like a tacky, tattered blanket,
A cloud of despair smothers me.
Layers of gray with streaks
Of blinding black press me
To the ground, a broken statue,
Tarnished by relentless rain
And worn by whimpering wind.

I cannot lift my head to watch
In case others turn from me,
Disdain displayed in their eyes.
Shame turns confidence into
Disgust for myself, burning
Like a fire without warmth,
Only a chill leaving no comfort.
How can anyone love me
When I remain disgraced in life
By being who and what I am?

The preceding poem has two similes and one metaphor. The one simile states that a cloud of despair, like a tacky, tattered blanket, smothers the narrator. The other says that disgust burns like a fire without warmth. The metaphor compares the narrator to a broken statue. All help strengthen the emotion in the poem, enhancing the feeling of shame. Alliteration is also used: tacky, tattered; blinding black; relentless rain; worn, whimpering, wind; disdain displayed.

Hopefully we can improve our poetry and add to the emotion and imagery by using metaphor or simile or both. Let’s try practicing the use of these in our writing to see how we can create more power in our poems.

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