What Are the Uses for Simile in Poetry?

Meghan Perry

There are a variety of uses for simile in poetry, such as creating a mental picture for the reader or linking together different parts of the poem. A simile is the use of the words "like" or "as" when making a comparison. Another figure of speech often used in poetry is metaphor, which is another form of comparison, although it does not use the words "like" or "as"; instead it states that something "is" something else. Most poetry uses at least one of these types of figures of speech and often uses both.

"His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.
"His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.

Simile is often used to create a mental picture in the reader's mind. For example, a poem might begin with a simile in order to set the tone of the poem. Phrases also can be personified by using simile in a piece of poetry. It can be used to make ordinary objects or ideas seem different or unfamiliar, which might enhance the meaning of the poem for the reader.

The use of simile in poetry can help the reader create a mental picture as they read.
The use of simile in poetry can help the reader create a mental picture as they read.

The use of simile in poetry often depends on the effect that the writer wishes to produce on the reader. Similes can be used to describe something; for example, by comparing one thing to something else, the reader might get a more detailed idea of what the original thing being described is. Similes can be used to describe almost anything.

Another use of simile in poetry is to link different verses or sections of the poem together. This might be done by repeating the simile throughout the poem, or changing it slightly with each verse. This helps the reader understand the overall concept or idea of the poem through repetition.

One of the dangers of similes in poetry is that they might turn into clichés, which are phrases used so often that they lose their original meaning or lose their effect. One example of a cliché would be "cool as a cucumber." It is usually best to avoid these types of phrases in poetry, because through their overuse, they are no longer original or creative.

A simile in a poem can be either very simple, such as a short phrase, or very complex. In some cases, a simile might make up an entire verse of the poem. There is a great deal of flexibility in the use of simile in poetry, and it is up to the writer to decide how complex the simile will be.

One of the ways for a writer to think about using simile in poetry is to think of two things that are completely different. By saying that one is like the other, a simile is created. It is important, however, for the writer to think about how the simile enhances the meaning of the poem; in other words, it should support the writer's intended meaning instead of contradicting it or not contributing anything in particular to the meaning.

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Discussion Comments


@pastanaga - I do think that similes have been overused to some extent though. I guess the word "like" just gets pushed into poetry too often, to the point where it becomes jarring.

It's the same as any other word. It should be used sparingly. And if every single object described in your poem is only described through comparison with something else, that doesn't really leave the reader with a solid foundation for understanding.

To me, a metaphor or a simile has to be absolutely amazing and completely necessary before it should be put into any poem and using more than one or two should be avoided at all costs.


@Ana1234 - You also just can't really get away with a direct metaphor in some cases. In the lines "she walks in beauty/ like the night" there just wouldn't be the same image and lyrical feel to the words if the poet tried to say in some way that she is the night.


One thing to remember is that a simile is a little bit more distancing than a metaphor, so you should use it with that in mind. If you say that someone is like the sun, that has a different and not quite so strong connotation than saying "she is the sun."

One is not better than the other. And in some cases you will absolutely need to use a simile just to get a point across properly. If you say that someone is "like a daughter" then people will know what you mean (she isn't actually related, but might as well be) whereas if you say "she is my daughter" and there is no context to say otherwise, they might well take you literally.

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