Tuesday, April 17, 2012


One of my favorite tools in the Poetry Toolbox is metaphor. I love the challenge of saying something IS something else rather than just “like” something else. It’s much more difficult to carry off!

And one of my all-time favorite responses I’ve ever gotten at a poetry critique session is this:

“The overarching metaphor fails.”

While that is not a good thing, isn’t it great when someone can look at you and deliver those words in such a grave manner? I do love poets.

And I do strive to make my metaphors succeed rather than fail. Which brings me to Laura Purdie Salas’s BOOKSPEAK!

There is much to love in this collection of poems about books and writing. But the two poems that spoke most fervently to me are simply awash in metaphor, and Laura gave me permission to share them here. AND she was gracious enough to offer comments about the use of metaphor in poetry as it relates to these specific poems. Enjoy!



Snowy pages,
steady track.
Tiny footprints
dipped in black.

Through the blizzard
stories roam.
They tiptoe bravely
out, then home.

Laura Purdie Salas: “Metaphor is really at the heart of so much poetry. When you look at one thing and you see another, the connections you make between the two things can be startling, scary, lovely…all big pluses in poems.

"At a school visit a few weeks ago, a teacher had been reading BookSpeak! with her students, and she asked what “Written in Snow” was about, specifically. Well, isn’t that a good question! I rarely remember specifically what was in my mind as I wrote a poem. The original title for this poem was “Tracking,” and I do know I was inspired by footprints in the snow on our deck. All this wildlife coming right up to our suburban house, and we never see it. I think when I wrote it I was picturing stories as small rabbits, timidly venturing through the cold, hoping someone would be observant enough to recognize them. Or maybe that’s just the spin I put on it now! But the core metaphor was definitely stories as secretive, silent, lovely creatures that aren’t necessarily jumping in your face—sometimes you have to make an effort to find and love them."

Readers, me again: Don’t you love that idea of stories as small rabbits in snow?



Line after line of inky black birds
forming the flocks that shift into words.
Page after page of tales winging by,
singing a story against a
white sky.

 Laura Purdie Salas: "For 'Skywriting,' the metaphor is overtly birds as words. I love seeing birds lined up on telephone or power lines, looking like letters lined up on notebook pages. And, of course, I am not nearly the first poet to make that comparison! And I also love seeing murders of crows or flocks of swallows zooming against the sky. I especially love when there’s a huge swarm of them in a big chaotic mess. Then something shifts and they are all swooping and looping in this orchestrated fashion. It’s amazing! And that’s kind of what happens to me in a poem. You have all these elements, words, sounds, and they seem separate. Then something gels and some alchemy happens and zap--you have a poem! I love the way the illustration also calls to mind a musical staff, and the poem  has the birds “singing their story.” So even though I didn’t have that metaphor strongly in mind as I wrote this, I think a story/music comparison (or collaboration) emerged in the melding of words and art.”

Me, yet again:  I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS POEM!

Okay,  now for more fun stuff. Laura has set up a Goodreads giveaway in conjunction with this post!

So, go now, ENTER!

I will actually be the one to send the book out (donated from the publisher) and Laura will send an autographed bookplate. Good luck! And if you don’t win, READ THIS BOOK.  It is a delight.

And don't forget to check out the progress of our Progressive Poem, now at Tara's A Teaching Life, for line 17!


  1. Oh my goodness, these are both so beautiful. As I read the first one, I imagined the page as the snow, with the story traipsing through, leaving its little tracks behind for others to read.

    And how great is "tales winging by" - love it!

    1. Thanks, Renee! And I'm so glad Irene asked about metaphor, because I have to write another piece on poetry, and doing this little piece gave me the idea I needed.

    2. Yes to "tales winging by." I love that too!

  2. Thank you, Renee, for inviting me to come visit!

    By the way, the progressive poem is brilliant! And I just started LEAVING GEE'S BEND and am totally entranced...

    1. Thanks, Laura... hope you enjoy Ludelphia's adventures!

  3. This book is so beautiful...in word and picture...just like A LEAF CAN BE! And you chose two of my favorites to share. There is such a wise gentleness in these - love! Thank you both. a.

    1. Thank you, Amy! Wise and gentle are two words never used to describe ME, so it's fun to see them applied to my work:>)

  4. Beautiful stuff (no surprise)! Can't decided which I like better, those rabbits or the birds. :)

    1. I'm with you, Kate - impossible to choose!

    2. The birds! Except that I hear Alred Hitchcock's voice when I say that...

  5. Yes, beautiful poems. And that's saying something, since usually I am NOT a metaphor-fan! Thanks for the giveaway link...I'm off to enter!

    1. Not a metaphor fan? I'm intrigued! Tell me more?

    2. Thank you, Becky. Oooh, I, too, am intrigued.

  6. Just like all the poems in the book, these two are just visions, aren't they? Thank you for sharing them Irene, & for the good words about metaphor, Laura. Interesting post!

    1. Thanks, Linda! I'm glad you liked the post. I feel like I haven't shut up about BookSpeak all month! I am so happy to be able to share stuff from it around the kidlitosphere, but fear I am becoming a party bore. Thanks for the kind words.

  7. Thanks, Irene and Laura, for a great post! The birds got my vote, from the very first time I read this delightful collection (which I happily have, so you don't have to stir me into the giveaway mix).

  8. Funny, I've been trying to write a poem every day this month. I keep finding myself frustrated as my poems fall short. I was just thinking I need to try to use metaphor --- and then I stopped by here. Thanks for giving me something to think about. I really enjoyed the poems above. Great examples of using metaphor effectively.



Your thoughts?