2250 Figurative language and extended metaphors

First, from David Starkey’s Creative Writing,

I.A. Richards coined the terms tenor for the subject to which a metaphor is applied and vehicle for the metaphoric term itself. If we say, to borrow an example from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, that a warrior was a lion in battle, the tenor of the metaphor is the warrior; the vehicle is the lion. As Ted Kooser says, “If you think of a metaphor as being a bridge between two things, it’s not the things that are of the most importance, but the grace and lift of the bridge between them, flying high over the surface.” The bridge between the tenor and the vehicle is most fitting when the connection between the thing being described and what it is being compared to is both unexpected and somehow fitting.

Second, three examples of poems as extended metaphors:

From The Beginning of September by Robert Hass



The insides of peaches

are the color of sunrise


The outsides of plums

are the color of dusk





Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickenson


Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune – without the words,

And never stops at all,


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.


I’ve heard it in the chilliest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.





Habitation by Margaret Atwood


Marriage is not

a house or even a tent


it is before that, and colder:


the edge of the forest, the edge

of the desert

the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat

outside, eating popcorn


the edge of the receding glacier


where painfully and with wonder

at having survived even

this far


we are learning to make fire


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