How to Write a Conceit Poem
Often used to teach metaphors or similes, conceit poems compare two seemingly unrelated things. Conceits were first used in metaphysical poetry by 17th century poets, who often tried to shock the reader by the strangeness of the objects being compared. Writing a conceit poem helps students think more deeply about the use of imagery in poetry rather than just rhyme and meter. In fact, the use of rhyme and meter can vary greatly in conceit poems.
Conceit poems don't have much structure. The poem should focus on creating a surprising and extended metaphor. As a teacher, you might want to assign a certain number of lines to the poem, especially if your students are young. Older students might be challenged to extend the metaphor as long as possible. Tell students to choose their subject carefully. Something like a person's eyes, for example, might be compared to many things. A less complex object, such as a glove, might not. The two things being compared should have multiple characteristics so the writer has enough material to work with.
A conceit poem should always begin with the metaphor. The simple line should consist of the two objects being compared. It can be simple and straightforward, such as: "My cat is like a bad grade." Or, it can be more complex, such as: "I count to 10 but when I speak, the storm is released." Younger students should stick with the more simple opening, while older students can be a bit more creative with the first lines of their poems.
Extend the Metaphor
Guide the students when they write the body of their poems by reminding them to analyze their subject. Tell them to think about how the subject looks and behaves, where the subject lives and how it uses its senses, if applicable. To help younger students organize their thoughts, consider giving them a graphic organizer with different sections. The sections might have such titles as "What does it look like?" or "What is it doing?"
Conceit poems don't need rhyme, meter or a set number of lines, but they do need a good ending. Students should consider what their main subject -- the first item that is being compared to something -- will do at the end of the poem. For example, if a conceit poem compares a person's voice to a storm, the person might sigh at the end, and the storm might blow itself out with a last splatter of rain on the windows.
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