Tuesday Tryouts: I Shall Compare Thee

25 Jan

8:47 am, Tuesday, 25 January, 2011 – Atlanta

How is everyone? I hope over the weekend you had time to write, and play, and even frivol. Last week I had you do some directed freewriting as preparation. The second step in the metaphor exercises is to play with comparison, without worrying about using anything in a poem. You need to feel that you can play, and that you can stretch things, even be silly. Have fun with this.

Comparison is as natural as breathing. You hear a train and it reminds you of the ocean. You caress bark and remember your grandfather’s knees. You look at tributaries and see your veins. One landscape melts into another. It’s as if each time you encounter something it is imprinted over all the impressions that came before it; each impression is transparent.

The connection between two things can be obvious or subtle. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times the similarity is experiential or has to do with function. It is possible to find some similarity between [almost] any two things.

Babies and garbage trucks share similarities: they are both often smelly, move on all fours, and consume a lot. Trees and elephants both have trunks, have rough outer skins, live a long time.
Goldberg, Poemcrazy


Today draw comparisons between two things. Choose at least one from your surroundings. The other can be an object, a person, or an abstract concept like jealousy, love, fate. How many ways can you compare them? Go for at least twenty-five. Stretch yourself. If you have difficulty, try another pairing.

category metaphor

Comparison allows the writer to distance her/himself from the subject and allows, therefore, more direct comment. Examine a group. It can be your peers, your colleagues, your family… Then pick a category: vegetables, gardening tools, types of cereals, holidays, birds, any category that comes to mind. Develop character sketches for each member of the group based on elements within your chosen category. For instance, if you choose vegetables as a category, write about what type of vegetable your character looks like or acts like and why. Consider, you are not saying Uncle Joe is like a mushroom. You are saying he is a mushroom.

animal metaphor

What kind of animal are you? What qualities does that animal embody that you identify with temperamentally? Describe yourself as this creature. How does being this animal affect the way you write? Remember, you are not saying you are like a bear; you are a bear.


Consider what kind of weather corresponds to you right now: snow, lightning, rain, fog, a summer storm, whirlwind. How far can you take the comparison: mood, thought pattern, appearance, what you like to do for fun…

Write several of these, as the next step in preparation, and next week will come the more interesting exercises involving metaphors. These are to get you thinking naturally about comparison and to see things from a different point of view.

See you Thursday for submission resources.

All images are from clker.


Posted by on 25/01/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Tuesday Tryouts: I Shall Compare Thee

  1. James

    29/01/2011 at 8:07 am

    Cool exercises. You’re so right about remembering to play. It’s easy to forget that writing can often be fun.

  2. margo roby

    29/01/2011 at 9:50 am

    Thank you, James. Next Tuesday’s get a little stranger and more challenging, and more fun!


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