Tag Archives: metaphor

Poem Tryouts: Photos as Metaphors

7:31 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to John Whelan Skimming the Surface (instrumental)

Well, hello there. As I chortled over my idea for today’s prompt, based on one of Friday’s roundup prompts, I forgot this is image day, so have had to put aside my glee. I am always casting around for what I want to use as image, my greatest problem being one of provenance. The photographs I am using, therefore, are staying where I found them, but collected in one place. Field-trip!

For today’s exercise, the photographs are vehicles only. You are not writing about them, but about the metaphoric instance. I have written suggestions under each photograph. As always, should you have a completely different metaphor in mind, go with it. If you look at a photograph and something catches your poetic mind that you want to write about and it has nothing to do with metaphors and everything to do with the image… well, these things happen. Go with that, too.

Field-trip location: Go here. Don’t forget to bring sandwiches and coffee.

I shall see you Thursday for a couple of links; Friday for the prompt round-up; and next Tuesday for my put off prompt.

Happy writing, all.



Posted by on 24/09/2013 in exercises, poetry


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Poetry Tryouts: Metaphor Your Poems

7:38 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello everyone. You are well, I hope. Today we are going to write a poem that describes your own poems, through metaphor. Yes, I know, there are those among you straining to get to it and others who are looking for the door. Door people: trust me. If I can come up with metaphors, you can come up with metaphors. I even wrote a draft to show you.  Don’t panic at the post’s length. I wrote the example three ways.

I first had the idea a few weeks ago and was going to offer this prompt the first week of April. It seemed appropriate. Then I realised it would be lost amongst the daily prompts and it occurred to me that it might even be better after April. The idea arrived as I listened to Jose Marti’s Guantanamera, where he writes:

My verse is light green
and it is flaming crimson (red)
my verse is a wounded stag (deer)
seeking refuge in the mountains.

You can use ‘poetry’ or ‘poems’ or ‘verse’. You can alternate the refrain, as Marti does, or repeat it every line as in Momaday’s ‘The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee‘, or, as I have, with no refrain. I give an example of each form, but for my metaphors, the first works better.

my poems are

one moment
a perigee moon
a still life with blue pitcher
the Jewish Cemetery in Prague
the elements
a metamorphosis
pressed leaves
fossil pathways
Icarus reaching for the sun
Icarus falling to the sea
the streets of Hong Kong
from the vine
a storm, tornado, tsunami, wildfire
Lazarus arisen
a clean slate
the morning sun
a lifetime


My poems are one moment
My poems are a perigee moon
My poems are a still life with blue pitcher
My poems are the Jewish Cemetery in Prague
My poems are the elements
My poems are a metamorphosis
My poems are pressed leaves
My poems are fossil pathways
My poems are Icarus reaching for the sun
My poems are Icarus falling to the sea
My poems are the streets of Hong Kong
My poems are from the vine
My poems are mindgames
My poems are a storm, tornado, tsunami, wildfire
My poems are Lazarus arisen
My poems are a clean slate
My poems are the morning sun
My poems are a lifetime


My poems are a perigee moon
and they are the rising sun
My poems are a clean slate
and a still life with blue pitcher
My poems are the Jewish Cemetery in Prague
and they are Lazarus arisen
My poems are the elements
a storm, tornado, tsunami, wildfire
My poems are a metamorphosis
and they are mindgames
My poems are from the vine
and they are pressed leaves
My poems are fossil pathways
and the streets of Hong Kong
My poems are Icarus reaching for the sun
and they are Icarus falling to the sea
My poems are one moment
and they are a lifetime

Whichever form you choose (I am liking the third more and more for the way it reads), the work part is coming up with the metaphors.  What are the things that your poems are, or are your poems? Use terms that make sense to you and you will find metaphors easier to deal with. Say you have a passion for quilting. Glance at the names of all the quilt designs you have crafted. Put in a deliberate order, would those work as metaphors?

How did I arrive at mine? In a slight panic, because my mind does not think metaphorically and I find metaphors excruciatingly difficult to come up with (getting easier though…), I was glancing through my poems looking for the one I wrote after Momaday’s. As I read through titles I had a Eureka moment when I realised the titles, or topics, would serve as my metaphors, with tweaking as needed. Bob’s your Uncle. Done.

Okay, not quite. I needed to get them into an order that made sense to me. Then I was done.

Have fun. Let your mind loose. If desperate, come up with one metaphor, or two or three, and write about it. If you decide, My poems are like snails nibbling lettuce leaves, well, then, tell us how and why. You will find that you have an extended metaphor.

Write. Post the link, so we can read your poem. Rough drafts always welcome. I shall see you  Thursday for links; Friday for the roundup of the week’s prompts; and next Tuesday for a borrowed prompt.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 14/05/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Here’s a Metaphor, There’s a Metaphor

8:25 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Sweet Baby James by James Taylor

Hello! I enjoyed the pieces that came out in response to last week’s narrative prompt, and even more, the fun you seemed to be having. Today we shall continue our reveling in metaphor. Remember what I said about metaphor:

A metaphor provides the identification of two unlike things. X=Y. The two things are not being compared, one to the other; the two things are each other. Metaphor comes from the Greek metafora: to transfer to. When using a metaphor, you are transferring the properties of one thing to another. “Juliet is the sun”. Not Juliet is like the sun, hot, bright, yellow… but Juliet IS the sun, the centre of Romeo’s universe, the giver of life and nurture.

Today’s exercises are a lot of fun. Do as many as you wish. Make your own versions up. When I do these, I find it easier to write prose first. Then I look for the line breaks and work the prose into a poem. You may either write and leave in prose, write and work into a poem, or write straight into poetry [you wild poemers, you]. Whichever you do, post for us to read.

One thing you will notice and wonder about is how an audience is supposed to know what your metaphor is about. Remember that in writing fiction, an author has context into which he places the metaphor. Readers don’t stop and wonder what the heck is going on. They know the relationship is a sunset, and why. For your pieces, add the short bit that describes the exercise, if you want.

1] Describe a body of water as seen by a teenager contemplating suicide. Do not mention death, suicide, or the teenager doing the seeing.

2] Describe a building as seen by a man whose son has just died in a war. Do not mention the son, war, death, or the old man doing the seeing.

3] Describe the night as seen by a young (wo)man whose first child has just been born. Do not mention birth, children, or the parent doing the seeing.

4] Describe a bridge as seen by a middle-aged adult who just can’t seem to do well in her job. Do not mention the job, or the adult doing the seeing.

5] Describe a forest, or some other natural scene, as seen by a woman whose detested husband has just died [yes, you can switch genders]. Do not mention the husband, the death, or the woman doing the seeing.

The tricky part is not sounding cliché, but that is also the addictive part of playing with these.

I have a draft of one that is on its way from the initial freewrite to a possible poem. The exercise works well if you set yourself a time. Choose one. Set the timer for twelve minutes and write. I find the time limit keeps me from overthinking and pulls out some things my rational brain might not offer. In response to the first:

Blue silk ripples beckon with white
fingers. Slender white fingers curve
and motion as water circles my ankles
surrounding me, pulling me in with her arms,
pulling me in. Ceaseless shudders and slaps
of wavelets, the murmurs ceaseless. The water
sucks greedily, waiting; she said she would
wait. Draining, straining, the white fingers
beckon; water pulls greedily and I see
long hair tangling; pond weed catches,
pulls, holds forever. Water reaches, pulls
me in enfolding, holding, ceaseless.

On that cheerful note, I shall leave you until next Tuesday when the Tryout will be a narrative exercise based on an image. Those who celebrate Thanksgiving, have a wonderful time. The rest of you can have a wonderful time, too :-).

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 20/11/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Let’s Compare Apples and Oranges: Tuesday Tryouts

7:39 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Ally Ally Oxen Free by the Kingston Trio… that takes some of you back, doesn’t it?

Hello, all. I hope our New Yorkers and New Jersey Shorers are hanging in. It was good to see you posting.

We are going to have a different focus for the next four, or five, weeks: narrative. So many of you participate in NaNoWriMo that I thought it might be interesting for you to have specific exercises to try as you go.

I do realise that this may result in a month of no poetry for us to read. Horrors! So, for those of you not participating, or those who want to keep the poetry going, you know you can find poetry anywhere. Take a part of any exercise I post and craft a poem. If the title of an exercise prompts a poem, go for it, because what do we say? So long as we are writing!

If you write a short fiction piece in response to any of the exercises, consider posting it, just as you do your poems. All writing welcome.

We will start easy, with metaphor. Writing narrative does not mean all literary techniques go out the window. Quite the opposite, and metaphor is one of your most valuable tools.

Comparison is as natural as breathing. You hear a train and it reminds you of the ocean. You caress bark and remember your grandfather’s knees. You look at tributaries and see your veins. One landscape melts into another. It’s as if each time you encounter something it is imprinted over all the impressions that came before it; each impression is transparent.
    The connection between two things can be obvious or subtle. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times the similarity is experiential or has to do with function. It is possible to find some similarity between [almost] any two things.‘ [Bonni Goldberg, Room to Write]


Draw comparisons between two things. Choose at least one from your surroundings. The other can be an object, a person, or an abstract concept like jealousy, love, fate. How many ways can you compare them? Go for at least twenty-five. Stretch yourself. If you have difficulty, try another pair. One of the things might come out of what you have written for NaNoWriMo, so far, or have in mind to write.

Create a metaphor . . .
simile: indirect comparison? metaphor: direct comparison?
NO! A metaphor provides the identification of two unlike things.
x=y. The two things are not being compared, one to the other; the two things are each other.

Category metaphor

Comparison allows us to distance ourselves from the subject and allows, therefore, more direct comment. Examine a group. It can be your peers, your family, characters from your novel idea… Then pick a category: vegetables, gardening tools, types of cereals, holidays, birds, any category that comes to mind. Develop character sketches for each member of the group based on elements within your chosen category. For instance, if you choose vegetables as a category, write about what type of vegetable your character looks like or acts like and why. You will be surprised how much you will learn about your characters.

Animal metaphor

What kind of animal are you? What qualities does that animal embody that you identify with temperamentally? Describe yourself as this creature. How does being this animal affect the way you write? You may also apply this to a character. Again, it aids in development.


Consider what kind of weather corresponds to one of your characters: snow, lightning, rain, fog, a summer storm, whirlwind…how far can you take the comparison: mood, thought pattern, appearance, what the character likes to do for fun… Have you noticed, in novels you read, how often the author describes the weather. Authors often use the weather as a parallel to what is happening to a character, or to the plot.

Give these a try. It might be messy and sprawly, but words you will have. Consider posting one of your comparisons, so we can see what everyone has come up with. Poet people not into narrative, you can take this exercise almost exactly the same but you won’t apply it to a character and you will produce a poem, yes?

Above all, have fun. I shall see you Friday for the prompt roundup. Thursdays are dark until January, unless you have a question you want me to explore. This goes for narrative as well, particularly in the area of structure. Next Tuesday, we might have a more out there exercise in metaphor, or we may start playing with structure… or point of view. There’s so much. In fact, if you would like me to see whether I have a narrative exercise that addresses a particular aspect of fiction, let me know.

Happy writing, everyone.




Posted by on 06/11/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Prompt and Response to We Write Poems

pulled for revision


Posted by on 18/05/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Thursday Thoughts: More Words to Avoid

10:19 — Atlanta

Good day! Yes, I am running a little late: a lovely phone call from my son and a Facebook farm that required harvesting. Last week I started through the list of words for writers to avoid. Many of the words pertain more to prose writing, and even speech, but a few creep into poetry. They are all words that need to be seen and heard less. You can see the original list here.

You will have noticed [I am sure], that the first two words we dealt with, really and actually, are adverbs, and you will remember that I have said to avoid adverbs unless they are necessary to the truth of what you are writing about. The three words I want to slide out of your vocabulary today, are all adverbs, words that qualify, or set boundaries, to the words they modify. All these words have lost meaning through overuse. As you read through this, let your ear hear the difference between sentences using the no no words, and the same sentences without the words.

The first word is very from the Latin for truthful [Really? Actually? Yes, very is a cousin.]. If we say He is very tall, we are being unspecific and very weakens the word tall. Why not: He is tall. Now if he is unusually tall, we can employ simile, or metaphor: He is a giant. Now, a giant is very tall!

Very is often used to modify a word that is an ultimate, such as: She is very unique. Unique, in and of itself, implies the very. She is very evil. How can someone be beyond evil? There is no beyond. She is evil can stand alone to convey the truth about the person. Having the very distracts from and weakens the strong, specific noun, evil.

A close relative to very is so, used in the same way: He is so handsome. The so is to add emphasis and in speech works better than in writing. Again, the plain, straightforward: He is handsome, can stand alone. Or, bring simile, or metaphor, into play: He is as handsome as George Clooney.

So is also used almost as an interjection: So, are you ready? Why not: Are you ready? So, shall we go? Try: Shall we go?

The final word for today is just used as an adverb, to mean only, or simply. Again, the word acts as a qualifier. I just want to go home, or, He just won’t listen, and, That is just what I mean. Now listen with your inner ear: I want to go home, He won’t listen, and, That is what I mean. The removal of just clarifies and strengthens what is said. Now, if you want to use it to add a nuance: He was just a stockboy until they promoted him, that’s intentional use, because the word implies something demeaning about being a stockboy.

While I am suggesting removing these words from your vocabulary, what I mean is that you should use the words, as you would with all word choices, deliberately and with knowledge of their effect on other words, on the writing as a whole, and on readers.

As we head into the Easter weekend, I shall have an abbreviated Friday Freeforall…okay, I will try. On Tuesday we will look at ballads. And, next Thursday we will do another group of words to avoid. I promise a break on the words after that, before finishing the list. If you know anyone who would enjoy this, do click on the buttons below. Happy writing.


Posted by on 21/04/2011 in poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Blazon It!

8:33 — Atlanta

Hello all. I decided to show you the BLAZON. The form is not stressful and can be fun.You will need to think metaphorically, much like the delight song I asked you to write some weeks back, or surrealistically, as we did some months back. I have provided links for both posts, as we have new readers, and my long time readers may need a refresher. I know I would.

Here’s an excerpt from a BLAZON, a poem that itemizes the qualities of something or someone beloved:

Free Union
a 1931 poem by Andre Breton

My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer
The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut
Whose tongue is an incredible stone
My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child
Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows
My wife whose temples are the slate of greenhouse roofs
With steam on the windows
My wife whose shoulders are champagne
Are fountains that curl from the heads of dolphins over the ice
My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts
Whose fingers are fresh cut hay

If you wish to read the entire poem, you can find it here. Note that Breton starts at the top and is working his way down the form of his wife. That is one of the conventions of a blazon.

Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 130, wrote a blazon, but did so by listing what the attributes of his speaker’s beloved are not.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Your Blazon

I am going to broaden our options by suggesting that we can pick a person, or an object, or even a concept and that we can write a blazon where we dislike rather than like something. For one of the things/persons you love/hate, itemize the qualities this thing/person has.

To help you create images of the surrealistic kind, consider, as you list, how each quality affects you and your senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell, sight) and your emotions and your imagination.

List at least fifteen qualities and next to each, jot sensory associations. In case you have not gone back to the postings, I have copied an example of metaphor associations: Patience: turtle, stone, the colour grey, glaciers…they are your associations so don’t worry if others might think them odd. You will only have the metaphors and imagery, in the end.

Pick the ones you like and model your lines after Breton, or Shakespeare, or come up with your own way to list the attributes. You want specific images, sensory associations where possible.

Once you have about fifteen lines, arrange them in an order that makes sense to you, and reads well. Eliminate lines that don’t ring true, or don’t fit. Figure out how you want to end your poem. Finally, post the poem and post your link in comments, or post the poem in the comments here. Most of all, have fun with this.

I will see you Thursday for more words to avoid, and Friday for the week’s wrapup. If you know anyone who would enjoy blazoning, feel free to share. Happy writing.


Posted by on 19/04/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Your Metaphor

9:05, Tuesday – Atlanta

I was going to start a new series of exercises with dialogue poems, but wrote a metaphor poem last week, in response to a We Write Poems prompt, that I enjoyed so much and feel is too good an exercise not to share.

By: doraelia ruiz


The first thing you need to do is visit the original poem on which I based mine, N. Scott Momaday’s “The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee“. I will post mine below, so you don’t have to leave the page a second time.

Jot a list of qualities you associate with yourself. Next to each quality write things you associate with that quality.

from microsoft


Patience: turtle, stone, the colour grey, glaciers…they are your associations so don’t worry if others might think them odd. You will only have the metaphors, in the end.

Pick the ones you like and write a line beginning with I am + the thing you are + a place, or action, or time. That will be much clearer on reading the two examples. You want specific images, sensory associations where possible.

Once I had about fifteen lines, I rearranged them in an order that made sense to me, and read well. I eliminated a couple of lines that didn’t ring true, or didn’t fit. Finally I figured out how to end my poem, because following Momaday for his ending would have been difficult.


from microsoftMy Delight Song

I am the words I write
I am a dragon swimming the ocean’s depths
I am a stone waiting to be picked up
I am a stand of evergreen bamboo
I am a grain of dust carried on the wind
I am the smoke of incense spiraling skyward
I am a cloud through which the sun shines
I am the border between night and day
I am the red berries of the winter ash
I am the grey heron hunched against the cold
I am the cry of a train in the night
I am a photograph fading out of focus
I am a scrap of paper left as a bookmark
I am a fingerprint on the minds of students
I am all these things and
I am the words I write.

After “The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee,” by N. Scott Momaday

Enjoy and do post a link in comments, so I can enjoy too. Thursday will be Revision: Verbs and Nouns and I know you won’t want to miss that! Friday is our roundup of sites. Next Tuesday will be Dialogue Poems.


Posted by on 22/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Try This

8:01 am, Tuesday, 15 February, 2011 – Atlanta

I did not plan this. It is a coincidence that we end up with an exercise to do with love, this week of all weeks. I have my exercises in an order, and so it goes. I considered shifting it to next week, but it’s not quite so tidy, so I will give you an option.

1] LOVE. Think of someone/something you love. It can be a person, someone you know, or don’t – think movie star, or singer, world leader…remember that love has many definitions and they aren’t all the hearts and flowers kind. Think friendships, family, platonic…It can be about your favourite food, place, song, pet. Anything, but read the rules below.

Take six minutes. Freewrite about your love for it WITHOUT using terms of endearment, or the word love/like/adore/or any other abstract synonym. This is trickier than it sounds, but can result in a strong poem.

Stroke/Rewrite as poem.


2] List as many sport’s terms as you can. Use as many sports metaphors [run with, strike out, hit the mark, team player, foul] as you can to describe an experience such as shopping, or an evening out.

Then describe the same experience, replacing the sports metaphors with another category such as dance [side-stepping, waltzing, leading, following, leaping] or food [digest, half-baked, gel, stew, meaty, fishy], after first listing as many terms as you associate with your chosen category.

Or, describe yourself as a writer in terms of a particular sport [or metaphor of your choice].

I know: these are both difficult. I figure you have reached the point, those who are new writers, to take on something more challenging. Those who are more seasoned writers can play. Do both. Metaphor is fun.

Bonus: A poem by Sylvia Plath, titled “Metaphors”. Those who don’t know this poem, every line is a metaphor, as is the whole poem. Everything adds up.


I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Sylvia Plath

Please do post a link in the comments if you write a poem from these exercises. I love to see the results that grow out of the exercises I set.

See you Thursday, with a poem in hand, preferably one of the metaphor poems, to start a series of posts on revision.

All images from OCAL


Posted by on 15/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Tuesday Tryouts: Metaphor This

8:12 am, Tuesday 1 February, 2011 – Atlanta

Hello! I hope everyone had a good weekend. I am recovering from visitors. They were less exhausting in my youth.

Today’s exercise is a lot of fun and I suggest you try several. You may or may not end up with a poem, but if you have trouble with metaphor, this will take you a long way to overcoming it. I have no images to decorate this post because I don’t want to suggest anything [even a clipart version] to your brain. The imagery needs to be all yours.

This week we will take comparison further.

Pick one of the below and freewrite. Do another…and one more?

Describe the night as seen by a young (wo)man whose first child has just been born. Do not mention birth, children, or the parent doing the seeing.

Describe a body of water as seen by a teenager contemplating suicide. Do not mention death, suicide, or the teenager doing the seeing.

Describe a bridge as seen by a middle-aged adult who just can’t seem to do well in her job. Do not mention school or the adult doing the seeing.

Describe a dog or a cat as seen by a child whose parent has just done something awful. Do not mention the parent, what the parent did, or the child doing the seeing.

Describe a forest, or some other natural scene, as seen by a woman whose detested husband has just died [yes, you can switch genders]. Do not mention the husband, the death, or the woman doing the seeing.

The trick is to accomplish the exercise without resorting to cliche and being obvious. Again, this is setting up for the next step. Next week we will discuss metaphors a little and I will give you two final prompts to work with, similar to these, but working towards a poem with one of them, so we can move into the revision process.

See you Thursday, when I do have a few loose ends to tie up.


Posted by on 01/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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