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Expressed Identity Metaphor:
“X is Y.” Your heart is an ocean. War is a burning ember.
“The Y of X.” The ocean of your heart. The burning embers of war.
“X’s Y.” Your heart’s ocean. This war’s embers.

Verbal Metaphor:
Expressed by the conflict between the verb (the action word) and its noun subject (the person/place/thing/idea)… usually….
X does something that Y would probably do: The tide of your heart rolled in for the evening. Newspapers smoldered with the embers of yesterday’s battle.

Try these sentence-starters to build striking metaphors.

The sky on the horizon was____________like ______________________ that ______________________.

Their kiss was _____________________________________.

He gave a look like _____________________________as though ________________________.

The old man’s breath was _____________________________________.

The _______________________of the city __________________________ like _____________________________.

The voice on the other end of the line ____________________like _______________________ waiting for ________________.

Continuing Metaphors:
Try writing a full poem with an extended metaphor that runs throughout the piece. Here are two quick examples:

When new friends
Point at dents, concerned, and ask,
“What happened to your car?” I answer,
“It was like that when I bought it.”

When I met Carol she was driving
A pretty good car
Except for the air conditioner
Which used to make the engine overheat.
-excerpt from “Cartalk: A Love Poem” by Jack McCarthy (What do the cars say about the differences of these two?)

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just ourselves—
And Immortality.

We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too
For His Civility
-excerpt from “Because I Could Not Stop For Death (712)” by Emily Dickinson (Where is this carriage taking her?!)

A couple of ideas for continuing metaphor poems:
Even the metaphors we live with subconsciously can provide grounds for further exploration in a poem. For example, we can bring flowers to someone we are trying to impress on a date, we bring flowers to a funeral, and a fistful of dandelions were probably one of the first gifts we ever gave someone, usually a parent. When you mention a flower in your poem, you can use it conjure up any or all of these things or break down these conventions. Could you write a poem about a flower that is about all of these things? Or any other ‘loaded’ object?

Ask history and currents events out for a playdate. Feel free to play around with time. Historical and popular figures can serve as metaphors, particularly if they suggest a dominant theme for most readers. Pop culture icons, world leaders, parents, and religious figures are all fair game. At this mental party, they might get talking about an issue you care about. Jot down ideas for what they might say. What does the nature of this person say as a metaphor?



Spoken Word & Poetry Teachers & Mentors

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