Two tools a writer can use to create meaning in a short amount of space
are the devices metaphor and simile. They are very similar to each other
in that they both make comparison between two unlike objects. A simile
does so by creating a link between the objects with the word "like"
or "as". A metaphor simply uses a linking verb to join the two
ideas. Compare the two statements, "She dances like an angel"
and "She is an angel". Notice that the metaphor is actually
open to more interpretation than the simile, because there are more connections
that the reader can make. In saying that she dances like an angel, the
reader is not examining the girl's personality or physical appearance,
only the way she dances. In the metaphor, however, the reader can link
as many attributes of the girl to an angel as the imagination permits;
she looks angelic, she has a charitable disposition, she brings light
wherever she goes, she is very graceful. Metaphors can also be extended
throughout a paragraph or poem by linking many aspects of the two objects
Using a metaphor is a great way to start a poem. Simply make two columns
in the brainstorming process, and put the topic you would like to write
about in the first column, and the object you are going to connect it
to in the second column. Then, list as many characteristics of your topic
under the first column and see if you can then make parallel connections
to your object, or metaphor. For example, if you choose to write about
your personality and compare it to water, your paper may look like this:
Can be overwhelming; If angry, can destroy
Can be nurturing
can be vapor, liquid, or ice
can become a flood and destroy
needed for life
Once you have enough aspects that correspond between the two, you can
form a poem around the information.
Bring your list to class; we are going to use it as a starting point for
a poem during workshop.
Read the following poem by Langston Hughes entitled "Mother to Son".
Then prepare the discussion questions before coming to class.
"Mother to Son"
by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor--
But all the time
I'se been climbing on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now--
For I'se still going' honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
Between what two objects does the poem make a comparison?
What are the different ways that Hughes relates the two?
Think of one other way that the two are similar.
How does Hughes create the voice of the speaker? What assumptions do you
make about her?