Directions for Writing a Personification Poem

Personification​ -- attributing human characteristics or qualities to a nonhuman -- is a powerful rhetorical tool for revealing unconsidered qualities of both humans and the nonhumans to which they're being compared. Writing a ​personification poem​ lets you explore these qualities.

As a writer, you can use ​personification​ to:

  • Demonstrate Creativity
  • Exercise Poetic Skill
  • Create Humor
  • Enhance Imagination

Identify the Subject's Attributes

As with any example of ​personification​, a poem starts with the object, animal or idea that will be the subject or theme.

  • Identify the main attributes it can share with a human.
  • For example, an oak tree grows slowly, is very tall and is hard. These attributes will become the basis for how you personify your subject in your poem.

Select Strong Words

Using your subject’s attributes as a starting point, select strong words that describe the subject or its actions, using adverbs, adjectives and verbs.

  • For example, you might select adjectives that describe an oak tree such as firm, resolute or stoic, while also selecting verbs that describes the actions of an oak tree such as prevail, remain or endure.
  • These strong words start to generate a personified image of your subject that goes beyond mere physical description.
  • In the case of the oak tree, words such as “firm,” “resolute” and “endure” suggest the subject is brave and powerful, perhaps a soldier of some kind.

Choose a Poetic Form

From the highly structured sonnet to the more structurally forgiving free verse poem, you can choose from dozens of poetic forms.

  • Novelist and poet Stephen Dobyns advises to first choose the poetic form with which you are most comfortable.
  • For some, this means a highly structured, rhyming form in stanzas. Others might prefer a more stream-of-consciousness formlessness.
  • In his book “Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry,” Dobyns also recommends choosing a form that fits the subject.

Note

In the oak tree example, a more structured form might be called for, while a poem about a more nebulous or shifting subject, such as wind or love, might demand a freer, less rigid form.

Draft

According to David Bartholomae and Tony Petrosky, professors of composition and education respectively, all writing, particularly creative writing, spends most of its “life” in the drafting phase.

  • Their reasoning is that no piece of writing is ever truly finished; the author just decides when he is finished working on it.

The same holds for a personification poem.

  • When you’ve selected and identified your subject, gathered together some powerful words and chosen a poetic form, you could spend a lifetime trying to perfect your poem by moving words around, rejiggering the lines and changing your themes and concepts.
  • Bartholomae and Petrosky recommend saving all versions of your writing, as well as sharing it often with charitable and kind peer reviewers.

What are some examples from famous poetry?

Many forms of poetry and writing utilize ​personification​ in different references and settings. Here are a few famous poetic examples of ​personification​ use:

Hey Diddle Diddle Mother Goose

"Hey diddle, diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon;

The little dog laughed

To see such sport,

And the dish ran away with the spoon."

Shoe Talk by Shel Silverstein

There’s no one to talk with-

I’ll talk with my shoe.

He does have a tongue

And an inner soul, too.

He’s awfully well polished,

So straightlaced and neat

(But he talks about nothing

But feet--feet--feet)

What are some examples of different ways of using literary devices like personification?

Personification​ is just one way to enhance your creativity in writing poetry and other literatures. Here are a few examples of how to shift your writing depending on what literary device you want to use:

1. Floorboards Creaking

  • literal description - The old floorboards creaked under my weight.
  • personification - The old floorboards groaned irritably under my weight.
  • anthropomorphism - The old floorboards yelled, "Get off of me!"

2. Dog Walking

  • literal description - The dog walked to the doghouse.
  • personification - The dog miserably trudged to the doghouse.
  • anthropomorphism - "I can't believe she doesn't want me inside," thought the dog, scowling on his way to the doghouse.

3. Teapot Whistling

  • literal description - The teapot whistled loudly.
  • personification - The teapot screamed with indignation.
  • anthropomorphism - "Don't ignore me!" hollered the teapot, stomping its foot.

Note

Anthropomorphism is when human characteristics or qualities are applied to animals or deities, not inanimate objects or abstract ideas Mickey Mouse is a character that illustrates anthropomorphism in that he wears clothes and talks like a human, though he is technically an animal.