When my children were young, their dad set up a great birthday party game with colored strings. Each child at the party was given a separate colored string to follow and he or she would follow that string through a maze of angles and tangles, furniture and each other, till arriving at some little prize. Luckily, no one got garroted! Each kid just followed, followed, followed, sometimes laughing, sometimes frustrated, mostly fascinated.
In sports, following through on one’s strokes (throws, kicks) is what makes for extra power. In many professions, following through is what gets a job done right.
So, what does ‘following through’ mean when it comes to poetry?
A lot of things. But for this Meet the Bar prompt, I am focusing on following through a metaphor–extending it through its visceral angles and tangles to help you get to the prize of your poem.
This idea came up for me the other day in writing a poem, called “Circle.” I had an image in my mind of cupping one’s own heart, but didn’t know where to go with it. Then I focused on what cupping one’s heart would physically feel like (leaving out some of the blood and gore–):
But it’s hard to cup one’s own heart, to reach
inside the cage of one’s formed ribs, twist elbows
against their grooves;
fearsome to stretch fingers
into that deep,
to find the aching beat one can’t see but must just feel for
So, the exercise for the day is really dig into some metaphor or image–dig in and bat it out of the park!
Ha! Gotcha! Because THAT, my friends, is the OPPOSITE of what I am urging you to try! Typically diggers do not use bats, and batters do not use shovels, and what I am encouraging today is to stick to one metaphor, and not to do too much quick mixing and matching.
So that if, you are digging, your words are feeling the stickiness of the soil, echoing the clink of surrounding rocks.
Or, if you are batting, you make us feel the tension in the words’ arms and belly, the word’s wish for bubble gum to chew that tension away, the oncoming rush of the hard ball–
(Okay–you can use more than one extended metaphor in your poem. But try to at least extend one. And you can use any metaphor–nor just digging or batting!)
But most of all, have fun with your metaphors–think of them as bridges across the divide of the beginning and end of your poem.
And please do remember to extend yourselves (as well as your metaphors) to visit your fellow poets.
Finally–and I’m sorry to add the plug–I’ve just published a new novel, called Nice. I’m sorry to say it is not rich in elephants but it does focus on one extended metaphor (having to do with a US sister and brother and the summer of 1968). Please do check it out!
In the context of finishing this book, I wanted to send here my special thanks to Brian and Claudia who got me into this whole online poetry business. Although the poetry has been kind of a distraction from prose writing, it has given me confidence in the idea that someone might actually read what I write. I am tremendously grateful.
So! Here’s the Drill For Those Who Want To Meet The Bar of Extended Metaphor! Follow Through!
- Write a poem with at least one extended metaphor
- Click the Mr. Linky button below and enter your name & direct url to your poem
- There you will find other poets’ work for today’s prompt – engage with one another and have a good time learning from each other
- Feel free to share using the social media of your choice
(Finally, all pics, photos drawings are mine, but the prayer flags whose photo credit goes to Meredith Martin. All rights reserved.)