by Louise Robertson


The extended metaphor poem takes a metaphor, and then takes that metaphor farther — perhaps a little too far. Say my life is a fishnet — that’s the metaphor. Then say my life is a fishnet, the thoughts are fish, tangled in hair, lace shadow on sky, stained sand, and then the net breaks open, thoughts are free.

Ok, so much for freestyling an extended metaphor, but I think you get the idea. Set up the metaphor and then run with it, make it the real thing. Talk about oil as a drug, then send the army in to make a deal with the pusher — that kind of thing.

Did you know that eHow.com lists the extended metaphor as part of its instructions on how to write a slam poem? No, really, it does. (Don’t go look just now. eHow.com actually lists a grab bag of poetic techniques for writing a slam poem.)

If you want to see a sublime kaleidoscope study of the extended metaphor as used in a poem, read Anne Sexton’s “For My Lover, Returning To His Wife”. It’s like a whole bunch of extended metaphors all stacked together, twined up. That’s how Sexton rolled.

For a tighter example of the extended metaphor, see Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son”. I already mentioned “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost in the “Question Poem” (Day 3), so I won’t mention it again, except to say that, yeah, it’s also an extended metaphor.

Here’s a metaphor that has gotten totally, brilliantly out of hand. It’s Mike McGee’s “Soul Food”.


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