Phone like fungi

Phone like fungi

Somehow this simile only works with the kind of phone Golding is describing, from the 1950s.  It doesn’t quite ring true with today flat-packed smarty-phones. But there certainly was a small area at the far end of the building devoted to clerical activities,...
Like a grove of nettles

Like a grove of nettles

An original way to describe a covey of great-coated soldiers packed on a boat. The passageways was crowded with the soldiers we had taken on, looking as close-packed and furry in their greatcoats as a grove of nettles by a churchyard wall.  Source: Louis Golding,...
A piercing sound

A piercing sound

A high, piercing pipe sound likened to midges harassing the air, this simile makes me think of the horrifying tsssssssss sound of a mosquito around your ear just as you are about to sink into sleep. I also like the echo of the pipe, which may be played with a reed,...
Like a mouse

Like a mouse

You can see the man sawing between his teeth, the high-speed tooth-pick darting in and out like a mouse in a house with a hole. … the seed-pearl teeth, where a tooth-pick ran ceaselessly in and out, in and back again, like a mouse in a cage.  Source: Louis...
As permanent as …

As permanent as …

The meringue as a simile for impermanence, which prompts me to invent a new sweet bake, the melt in your mouth ephemeringue (you heard it here).Alternatively, in the age of climate change, how about ‘as permanent as sea ice’ or ‘as permanent as a...
All for me

All for me

The writer’s friend and travelling companion, Edward, is a motor man.  All things car and bus related thrill him and here he is described in happy-heaven.  What better symbol of boyish joy than ten ice creams? When, on the homeward journey from the Very Nice...
Like a horse’s eye

Like a horse’s eye

A lively boy’s eye view of travelling in a boat and looking through a porthole.  Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) was a small child when his father died and his widow and son were obliged to go and live with Gorky’s grandfather.  It was the abrupt end to a short...
A quotation is a cicada

A quotation is a cicada

Having built this ever expanding website partly as a way to share the thousands of quotations captured over decades of reading, I like Mandelstam’s strong assertion.  And poet as he is, he uses irresistibly original similes – a quotation as an...
Language in orbit

Language in orbit

A poet can provide the initial lift-off, but then the poem enters its own orbit and runs on its own fuel; perhaps the same can be said of any well-crafted powerful writing.  No doubt NASA would approve the metaphor.  Poetry is language in orbit.  It may start with...
Swarming possibility

Swarming possibility

An unusual image, of possibility swarming like larvae, ready to burst into butterfly winged realization.  … to swarm with larval possibility. For a rich selection of other Heaney similes and metaphors, see our celebration of Beowulf, both his version and that of...
Bull’s eye writing

Bull’s eye writing

You can just hear and see the word-arrow striking home and whooshingly vibrating its meaning as its velocity comes to rest in the bull’s eye.Closing lines like these would tremble in the ear like an arrow in a target.Oh for such twangingly sharp writing!For a...
From pantheon to palate

From pantheon to palate

A piled up commentary of poets on poets: Heaney on Mandelstam on Dante.  Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), who died in uncertain circumstances following his second arrest under Stalin’s purge-fest, took Dante with him when he was sent into internal exile and wrote an...

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