Poetry 101: Creating Figurative Language Using Literary Devices

Poetry 101: Creating Figurative Language Using Literary Devices


In this post, we continue our poetry 101 series and discuss creating figurative language using literary devices.

In this Poetry 101 post, I want to talk about the creation of figurative language by using literary devices. Have you ever wondered how poets create those beautiful, those rhythmic lines that create pictures and conjure up new meanings using what seem to be ordinary words?

Last week we submitted sonnets. It was amazing. Many poets wrote and submitted sonnets for the first time. There were many discussions about feet and rhymes and whether we should we even try to follow the rules. Ninety poets submitted their sonnets. I am so proud of them. It was tough, but they did it and learnt a lot and became better writers.

Figurative Language & Literary Devices

We’ve discussed the definition of poetry and looked at free verse and sonnets and we’ve talked about literal language and figurative language.

  • Literal language is what it is. It is literally literal. A car is a car, a duck is a duck, and a rose is a rose.
  • In figurative language a car can be a symbol of freedom, a duck can be a reference to childhood and a rose can be eternal love.

But how do we, as readers, know what these things are supposed to be?

A poet adds clues to the poem. They use certain devices to add emphasis, also called foregrounding, to the poem. There are many devices. Some are easy to identify and use, some aren’t as common and require a practised eye or ear.

The most common, you may be remember from school are, for example, alliteration and assonance and simile.

This list may help (or overwhelm) you: Literary Devices

Some of the devices and definitions on the list can be applied to fiction and others to poetry, but it’s great to remind ourselves of what they are and what they do.

Read these poems and see if you can identify if and where they used literary devices.

  1. Mending by Ingrid de Kok
  2. The Crocodile by Roald Dahl
  3. She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron

 by Mia Botha

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