Aristotle said, “The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.”
A metaphor is defined as a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. “Her words were swords that slayed my hope.” “The river flows like slippery silk between stout shoulders of green leaves turning to gold.” In the second image, we have both simile and metaphor.
What makes metaphors such powerful tools in crafting a poem, is that they surprise us, astonish us, allow us to see ordinary things in stunning new ways. Words become “swords” and “green leaves turning to gold” become shoulders. Words become paint brushes that create pictures for us, taking us to places we have never been. Metaphors show us things we never dreamed of. Metaphor is, indeed, the magic of poetry.
“…the night… clothed in a shawl of stars…”
“…stars like military buttons on the strict
black uniform of sky…”
“…fingers stray across the fraying fabric
I think of the poem as a promise; a promise of something unexpected, something that will challenge me to look at things in new ways. The sky becomes a black uniform, or desire becomes a fraying fabric. These new views of things I thought I knew, are exciting and energizing. Poetry should come at you like a howling wind, or sigh in your ear like a summer breeze through the leafy limbs of a willow.
Here are some everyday words – see if you can create metaphors for them:
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of metaphor is in the following poem by Emily Dickinson.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.