Somebody who will remain nameless but whose initials are William Dotani left me a comment on last week’s column, saying my prompt was as crusty as good pie. This was but one of the many delightful similes I got to read this week—partly because of your wonderful contributions, and partly because when you’re driving a PT Cruiser you’ve just bought, every PT Cruiser on the road jumps out at you. Here are two more I ran across that I simply must share:
“Time held me green and dying/Though I sang in my chains like the sea.” Dylan Thomas
“When the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherised upon a table;” T.S. Eliot
We are going to move on with our survey, but please don’t just forget all about our friend the simile. Continue to think about using them in your poems and stories and if you run across a great one, please share it with us in the comments.
This week’s poetic device is… Personification! Personification is the assignment of human qualities to an animal, an inanimate object, even an abstract concept. To wit, Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death—/He kindly stopped for me—/The Carriage held but just Ourselves—And Immortality. // We slowly drove—he knew no haste…” Assigning human qualities to an object tells us something poetically about that object. In our example, Dickinson’s poem tells us something about death. She could have just said, “Death is patient.” Giving us the image of Death as a kindly carriage driver lets us to relate to her thesis with our humanness and experience it in a visceral, sensuous way.
Greg Schiller's "Poteen (Irish Moonshine)" makes dazzling use of personification. See the passages beginning with "The road simply wandered off on a whim..." and "a cloud rolled in her sleep and dropped a veil off one shoulder..."
This week’s prose point of view can be great fun. I sure had a blast writing this example a few months ago. The device is Letter Narration. As in Dramatic Monologue, the narrator is talking to a specific person. In Letter Narration per se, I think it’s safe to generalize that the reader knows who the audience is, which is not always the case with Dramatic Monologue. Furthermore, there may be two (or more) correspondents writing back and forth. Woody Allen’s “The Gossage-Varbedian Papers,” is a very funny example. There may even be letters flying all over the place, as in “A Bundle of Letters” by Henry James, and the very funny “Jupiter Doke, Brigadier General” by Ambrose Bierce.
This week, your assignment, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to write a poem (any form or style) or story (up to 1000 words, please) that employs the device of Personification at some point. It will probably be a better writing exercise if you choose something unexpected to personify, as opposed to, say, a dog or a cat.
And/or…write a story using the device of Letter Narration. Play with the concept before you set it in concrete. You might show us one end of the correspondence and let us infer the responses. Or you might give us both sides of the correspondence. They don’t have to be letters per se. They could be interoffice memos, notes passed in school, emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook updates--the possibilities are endless.
- Put SunWE in the title and tags.
- Some indication of which prompt you are responding to is helpful.
- Deadlines are open. This prompt does not turn into a pumpkin a week from today. If you want to keep working on those similes, please do, and get them in when you can.
- I will comment on every submission and include a link to it in the next column.
- If you would like a little more academic critique--but still very friendly and positive--include the word "rigorous" in your post ("rigorous critique wanted" e.g.).
Here are the responses to last week’s prompt. Let me know if I missed yours. I hope you can take a few minutes and read some of the other submissions.