Most of us learned that similes were comparisons using the words “like” or “like” in second or third grade, so that’s all we’ll say in that section of our imagery toolbox.
Unless you have studied poetry or written more, you may not be as familiar with metaphor or the thread of poetry (also known as extended metaphor).
In life, as in baseball, we must leave the dugout of complacency, step up to the plate of opportunity, adjust the protective groin cup of caution, and swing the bat of hope on the curveball of fate, with the hoping that we can hit a hit line past the shortstop of misfortune, then we run down the basic path of chance, knowing that at any moment we can tear the hamstring muscle of inadequacy and fall flat on our faces. the field of failure, where the bugs of broken dreams get into our noses.
— Dave Barry
Above is a quote full of metaphors. Although it goes overboard for comedic effect, they are all good examples of what a metaphor is.
Perfecting the use of metaphor is essential for writing in general, but when creating poetry it is imperative. A creative metaphor in a poem makes it sing like angels and a poor one, or none at all, could all make your poem flat and out of tune.
In life, as in baseball, you have to get off the bench of complacency (Dave Barry)
You can’t stay on the bench, even if it’s nice and you’re happy there.
Why use a metaphor, why not just tell it like it is?
Well, you could, and that could be your personal writing style, but a metaphor takes your reader on a tantalizing ride, riding your words like they’re on the Orient Express. With it, you offer a bountiful feast for the eyes and imagination instead of having a grilled cheese in a cupboard. Most readers enjoy using their minds like a tongue, wrapping it around their poem enjoying exploring the flavor of it all.
Weave deeper meaning with threads of poetry
A thread of poetry, also known as an extended metaphor, takes a single metaphor and spreads it out over a large section or the entire poem.
Imagine that your poem is a quilt. Each square of fabric is a word and the dots that hold them together are your extended metaphor. This thread gently draws your reader throughout your piece and creates a deeper meaning and more vivid image within their mind.
Start with a simple metaphor, let’s go with your pup, it’s a vehicle. Now here’s an example of how to extend that metaphor:
my puppy is a car
that drives me pretty crazy.
When you’re ready to park
You are speeding down a freeway lane.
Their engines roar every time
he wants to go for a romp.
He runs right over me
before he can yell “STOP!”
Notice how I’ve taken the metaphor and expanded it? I’ve taken elements of driving (ie parking, revving, engines, racing, and freeway lane) and show the reader how the heck my pup is a car.
I’ve used a silly example because they’re funny, but they work just as well in more serious poetry or even essays, fiction, and more.
Whether you wrap your reader in a comforter, an heirloom quilt, or an itchy fleece blanket, you’ve given them another dimension with which to embrace your work.