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Why . . .do people put raincoats on dogs? Why are we enamored with Winnie the Poo and Micky Mouse? Why do we talk about the tortoise and the hare as if they are somehow competing in a race?

Lillian here. Delighted to be tending bar. So, let’s talk about anthropomorphism today: the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to nonhumans. Hmmm…how does that differ from personification? Literary Devices.net explains “…there is a slight difference between these two. Personification is an act of giving human characteristics to animals or objects to create imagery, while anthropomorphism aims to make an animal or object behave and appear like they are human beings.” (Underlining is mine)

Examples of anthropomorphism in poetry include the children’s rhymes

Hey! diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
While the dish ran away with the spoon.

and those “Three little kittens” who were so upset they “lost their mittens” and “they began to cry…”

Getting a little more adult here, let’s look to Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry:

Water Snake

I saw him
in a dry place
on a hot day,
a traveler
making his way
from one pond
to another,
and he lifted up
his chary face
and looked at me
with his gravel eyes,
and the feather of his tongue
shot in and out
of his otherwise clamped mouth,
and I stopped on the path
to give him room,
and he went past me
with his head high,
loathing me, I think,
for my long legs,
my poor body, like a post,
my many fingers,
for he didn’t linger
but, touching the other side of the path,
he headed, in long lunges and quick heaves,
straight to the nearest basin
of sweet black water and weeds,
and solitude –
like an old sword
that suddenly picked itself up and went off,
swinging, swinging
through the green leaves.

So for today’s Poetics, let’s try our hand at using anthropomorphism in a poem. Have fun with it as I did a few prompts ago in A Sharp Little Ditty, or be more serious. Write a poem for children or something more adult, more serious. Take on the voice of an animal character or write in the third person. Say….. how about that electric fan that is just dying for attention, waving its arms around and around, making high pitch pssssts trying to tell us they’re exhausted from blowing around all the hot air we humans are expending in our political rantings? Silly I know. But you get the point.

So give a cat a fiddle . . . . and anthropomophize me! 


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