Have you ever read a story or poem with objects that do things that humans do? But, you know that if you were to hold that object in your hand, it probably wouldn’t do anything like the way you read it.
When you write about something that is not human but make it behave like one, your are using a poetic device called: “personification”.
Poetic word of the day: “personification” (click here to see the definition on Merriam-Webster’s Word Central)
Personification is my favorite thing to do in a poem when I want to be funny. It helps me make the humor happen and it helps readers look at the topic from a different angle.
When you use personification in your writing, you can make anything you write about do anything you want. All you need is your imagination (and maybe pencil and paper). If you have a game you haven’t played in a long time, you may imagine it whispering to you, “When can we play again?” or it might say loudly, “You’re too old for me! Let me go to your cousin’s house.”
Personification doesn’t always mean making things talk. Anything a person does can be used to personify something that is not a person.
If you decided to wait until tomorrow to do some work you were supposed to do yesterday, all of the work you have to do in one day may keep you from having any fun. Using personification, you may write about this: “my chores are ganging up on me” or “my chores have gotten so big, they could try out for the football team!”
PROMPT: Write a story poem using personification. Make it at least 8 lines long. See if you can combine one of the previous lessons and write with iambs, rhyme, alliteration or maybe simile’.
FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Personify some items your child(ren) will use in their poems. For instance, a lamp that lights the page on which poems are written can be personified when you make it talk about that. The pen or pencil can add how they shape the words and make them appear on the page. And the notebook can talk about how it feels to hold the important poetic words your child writes. Finally, the three could have an argument about which one of them is the most important, and why.
When riding in a car or on a bus, your child(ren) can personify different things seen through the window. “The blue car is moving slowly because ‘he’s lost…” or “he’s sad” or “he is hungry… where is the gas station?”. “The sun keeps playing hide and seek with your child and the clouds.”
You probably already use personification when you pretend to give a teddy bear a voice that sings a lullaby or when a forkful of broccoli “asks” your child to eat it. Maybe an empty room in your home “gets angry” if the light is left on or the bathroom sink “cries” if dirty hands pass by without being washed (feel free to use any of these).
Let me add one caution: Consider setting a boundary around this poetic device. When poetry or creative time is over, make sure your child knows they need to stop playing with personification for now. There is so much of it on television, in books and games, they could just as easily stay in personification mode all day. They might even flip it and use it on you when they want something from you or if they don’t want to do something that needs to be done. There is a time to be poetic and a time to understand that cars don’t really get hungry and lamps, pens and notebooks do not have arguments.
My computer and I now bid you “good-bye”.