Introductory Metaphor

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The Living Room

a pair of hand made socks
knit with cheap, colorful yarn
the mittens not quite the same size
a vase about to topple on my table
as the cats race-chase through the house
chirping and trilling at each other
their joy for grey days and wet food.
a couch full of hangars and clothes I need to put away
lit dramatically by the window
pillows that have been laid upon so lovingly they're flat.
a painting by my sister
and At-at in a hat with Mickey Mouse ears
and a skull whose brain has been replaced
with a number of dice.

Carrie is taking a creative writing class in school this semester, and I’m blatantly stealing her assignment prompts for my own use. In this case, the assignment was to write a poem introducing oneself to the class via a metaphor. I am a mess. A total disaster area of love and happiness, but a mess nonetheless. I particularly relate to the ceramic skull in which we keep our gaming dice.

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Assignment Three: Favorite Metaphors

Yesterday, after hearing a particularly bad metaphor on NPR (reporters are notroious for trying to get creative in all the wrong places), I wrote a little do-and-don’t post about metaphor. That got me thinking about really great metaphors. I think one of the reasons I fell in love with writing was because I loved what could be done by comparing objects and ideas. I loved how language, a pure abstraction, could be imbued with so much texture and color just by chosing the right words.

So, my next assignment is this: Make a list of 10 really strong metaphors — not my own, but ones I’ve read and loved. In the next few days, I hope to be scouring some of my favorite books and poems to bring you the gems that made me fall in love with them.

Meanwhile, do you have any favorite metaphors? Lines from a song or a book you love? Share them!

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Unsolicited Advice On Metaphor

What’s the use of a metaphor?

Use a metaphor when there is no single word to describe it.

Use a metaphor when the object itself represents something larger. Or rather, allow the object to become the metaphor.

Do not use a metaphor to describe traffic parting to let a fire truck through. Everyone knows what that looks like, and the only options available to you are cliches.

Do not make reference to the Red Sea unless you are actually discussing the Red Sea.

Use a metaphor to show me something I cannot see otherwise.

Do not use a metaphor to describe things that need no embellishment: A goose standing in grass.

Use a metaphor to clarify an idea.

Do not use a metaphor that states the original idea exactly while only replacing words, like saying “apples” instead of “dollars.”

Use a metaphor to lend some magic to everyday experiences.

Keep in mind that sometimes, coming straight out with it, telling what is actually happening, can be more stark, more stunning, more beautiful and more powerful than dancing around it with a lot of extra words.

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