Hyperbole & Analogy in Poetry
A writer uses a variety of tools to create a poem. Figurative language is one of these tools. Figurative language, which appears in a variety of forms, helps the writer show what is happening in the poem. Examples of this language include similes, metaphors, hyperboles and analogies. A hyperbole is a statement of exaggeration, which is used to emphasize something, while an analogy is a simile or metaphor which compares two things to emphasize something unusual.
A hyperbole is an exaggeration or an expression of an exaggeration that is not meant to be taken or interpreted literally. For example, a character in a narrative poem might say “I tried a thousand times." The reader is not meant to think that the character actually tried to do something 1,000 times. Instead, the writer uses a hyperbole to produce a particular effect. The effects of hyperboles vary, but all act to emphasize something such as effort, feeling or reaction.
Examples of Hyperbole in Poetry
A hyperbole is an expression of an excited person’s tendency to exaggerate. For example, in “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman exaggerates the powers of a mouse: “And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.” The hyperbole allows Whitman to present a new truth, something that could be true but is not. As a result, the reader is presented with a dramatization of perception, a kind of expansion of his consciousness, and this new way of looking at the world often gives him a new perspective of both the poem and his own life.
Analogy is a kind of simile or an extended metaphor, which makes a direct comparison between two events, people, or ideas to draw a particular inference. An analogy may also make a comparison between two unlike things to identify a common thread between the two things or to clarify one of the less familiar subjects. For example, in 1969, Henry Kissinger wrote a memo comparing the withdrawal of U.S. troops to the addictive qualities of salted peanuts: “Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.”
Examples of Analogy in Poetry
In poetry, analogies are used to convey and emphasize something unusual by making a comparison between it and something that is more commonplace. Strong word associations allow the writer to change the reader’s mode of thinking and add some variation, adornment or embellishment to the poem. For example, in Amy Lowell’s poem “Night Clouds,” she writes: “The white mares of the moon rush along the sky / Beating their golden hoofs upon the glass Heavens.” Lowell makes an analogy between mares and clouds by using mares to construct an image of clouds moving at night.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.