The Poetry Place
Morning Song: Metaphor and Simile
Or simply imagery or figurative language. As I’ve said elsewhere, no one is impressed that you can label a simile correctly. But can you say something interesting about it?
Morning Song by Sylvia Plath is a great poem to dig into with students if you want to look at a poem heavy with figurative language. I won’t reproduce it here for copyright reasons but it’s easy enough to find. Just the first stanza:
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
The poem alternates striking images with factual description: ‘Love set you going like a fat gold watch’ is followed immediately by ‘The midwife slapped your footsoles’. Students could look for this occurrence elsewhere in the poem.
Then there are grey areas. A ‘bald cry’ is clearly not simply factual but how do we interpret ‘bald’? Let them look up the various meanings in a good dictionary or thesaurus. And the cry ‘took its place among the elements’ is harder: it is deeply layered and a good opportunity to discuss alternative readings.
The third stanza is another example. How do students interpret this sentence? You can be sure with Plath that this has been fully thought out. First there is the image to think about and then the need to answer the question – What does she mean by saying ‘I’m no more you mother than…’?
Discussion should flow because the topic is clear enough to give students confidence that they know what the poem is ‘about’ – but there are areas of doubt which they can fruitfully explore.
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