How to use personification & metaphors in poems

Written by noelle carver
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How to use personification & metaphors in poems
A metaphor animates an image: my adolescence was an egg in a nest, waiting to be run over. (Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Bringing personification and metaphors into a poem animates the poet's ideas and images. When a poet personifies an inanimate object, she allows the reader to sink into the object's perspective to understand her idea ("The chair with an aching back," for example). In a metaphor, a writer creates a direct comparison by writing that one thing is also another thing, which creates a fusion between two unlike things. For example, "the old mansion is a treasure chest" is a metaphor.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Start the poem with a line that has an image, an idea and a feeling in it. This may sound daunting, but amateur writers do it all the time. For instance, you might write "The bird, trapped inside the house, was blue." Use personification or a metaphor to make that line, or the next line, more compelling. For example, "The bird was a piece of sky trapped inside a house."

  2. 2

    Use metaphors and personification intermittently. If you do not devote the poem to all metaphors or all personification, mix the two throughout the poem. For example, you may write "Above the beach, the seagulls were whistles screaming through the sky." To personify the beach you may write "I walked across the beach's hot face, porous and buckled with pimples and warts."

  3. 3

    Personify objects or forces that will move the poem along. Avoid personifying a thing just to personify it; have a purpose for everything you do in your poem. For example, you would not write that a window had its eye open watching you work if you are not writing a poem regarding watching, spying or working.

  4. 4

    Use metaphors carefully. Metaphors are powerful figures of speech because they instantly transform one thing into another. When folding metaphors into your poem, be original but wary of making claims too silly or not helpful to the purpose of the poem. For example, avoid writing that the flowers look like hungry little mouths if the rest of your poem celebrates tranquillity in nature.

Tips and warnings

  • Writing well with metaphors and personification takes practice.

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