Poetic Terminology: Personification

By Nikki Anne Schmutz

As a poet, it is vital to know poetry terminology! Awareness of the devices used to create specific poetry styles will help us broaden our own style and skill. As we learn – we recognize the device, we see how other writers utilize it in their poetry, and we begin to dabble in something new. Creating our own version of something we learn is like the final exam of self-study.

Today we look at the use of personification. By definition, personification is a figure of speech in which a thing, an idea, or an animal is given human attributes. The non-human objects are portrayed in such a way that we feel they have the ability to act like human beings. For example, when we say, “The sky weeps” we are giving the sky the ability to cry and feel sorrow, a human quality. Thus personifying the sky. Other classic uses of personification are:

Look at my car, isn’t she a beauty?

The wind whispered.

The flowers danced.

The moon smiled.

Death had come.

Personification is a classical literary device. It is used in poetry to emphasize meaning and description. It gives the reader a reference to compare to. There are thousands of examples I could give you, but I will stick with one of my favorite poets of all time, Emily Dickinson.

Part Three: Love IX
Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.

HAVE you got a brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so?

And nobody, knows, so still it flows,
That any brook is there;
And yet your little draught of life
Is daily drunken there.

Then look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go.

And later, in August it may be,
When the meadows parching lie,
Beware, lest this little brook of life
Some burning noon go dry!


Go ahead and try personification in your poetry!


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