Extended Metaphors? Wash and Fold ‘Em.


Extended metaphors can be like a marathon, positively breathless to maintain in equal measure, but it’s worth it when you cross the finish line. And really, if your poem isn’t terribly long then your metaphor isn’t terribly extended, so why shy away from them?

For an example of a good “starter” extended metaphor, what about the natural parallels between love and laundry? But of course! We often think of the pair as similar. Or not.

But you will after you read a poet do it. You’ll say, “Oh, yeah. I see the connection. Why didn’t I think of that?” The short answer: Because you’re thinking of your own extended metaphor once you’re done reading this post.


Barton Sutter

Well, Old Flame, the fire’s out.
I miss you most at the laundromat.
Folding sheets is awkward work
Without your help. My nip and tuck
Can’t quite replace your hands,
And I miss that odd square dance
We did. Still, I’m glad to do without
Those gaudy arguments that wore us out.
I’ve gone over them often
They’ve turned grey. You fade and soften
Like the hackles of my favorite winter shirt.
You’ve been a hard habit to break, Old Heart.
When I feel for you beside me in the dark,
The blankets crackle with bright blue sparks.


In this case, the “extended” in Sutter’s metaphor is a sonnet’s length, is all. You can do it, too, in 14 lines or less. Rub your muse against a balloon or something, then touch it with your writing finger and see if there isn’t some static. Creative static extended till the end.