I don’t think there’s anything set in stone about the need to include metaphors in poetry. I have not heard of any conference with keynote speakers setting mandates and objectives on metaphor’s necessity. (Can you even imagine?)
However, a poet’s ability to use two unlike things to express something that feels otherwise unsayable is something I love about reading poetry.
“Remember how your mother took you gently up, then folded up the ocean,” Jeanne Murray Walker writes in “Notes To Yourself,” a poem found in Pilgrim, You Find the Path by Walking. A mother cannot fold up the ocean, you might think. How can I remember something that did not happen? Except maybe you have a memory of your mother or a mother figure picking you up gently. And of course it wasn’t the ocean she folded up, but perhaps you know what it is to face something so vast, so mysterious, so strong it could pull you away in an instant. It would take someone equally strong and vast and mysterious to fold it up.
So the poet continues, the mama folds the ocean and she “tucked it safely under her arm, swept the beach into the jar / How long it’s kept. It’s kept.”
And maybe you’re thinking the poet is referring to the jar of saved sand, and that could be, but what about the ocean tucked safely under the mother’s arm? Could it be that the ocean stands for all a mother holds and protects and offers? Could the ocean be a placeholder for how we might’ve experienced our mothers when we were younger? Perhaps now that we are older, we can take that jar, open it, and let the ocean out.
A metaphor is a figure of speech writers use to compare two unlike things. The metaphor’s power is its ability to express something in the unlikely comparison. Readers are given the ability to better feel the story(or poem), which means we become more empathetic.
This week write a poem with a metaphor in it. If you can, use water or sand as your ingredient.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Jenna Brack we enjoyed:
You stood guard
behind the chain-link fence
as we treaded, kickboarded,
backstroked, flip-turned, dove
into shivering pools on steamy mornings,
our water-soaked complaints falling
onto your dry hair—
a symbol of the summer
you nearly dipped beneath
the lake’s surface
and never became our mother.
I crossed an ocean
once, called to confess
my shoulders had turned
the color of your rouged cheeks.
I heard you sigh
from behind the fence, still
holding the swim bag
with my forgotten sunscreen.
I have left some things behind,
but when water surrounds
my body, I rehearse the kicks,
strokes, and turns you never learned
but left behind for me.
Browse more poetry prompts
Twirl is writing magic.
“This book is writing gold. This book, like all of Callie’s writing, makes me sit up and pay attention to my life. She reminds me why I write my own stories—fiction and non-fiction—to make sense of the world, my thoughts, my dreams, my reflection, etc. She reminds us that real life, our every day ordinary lives, are beautiful and worth taking a closer look. There’s always more to learn about ourselves and not everything has to have a bow tied on top. We don’t always have to arrive when we think we’ve reached the end, and TWIRL is such a beautiful reminder of that. There’s magic in this book.”
– Tracy Erler
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