Personification is a lovely literary tool. It attributes human-like qualities to things that are non-human (such as animals and pets) or inanimate (such as notebooks or stones). Suddenly, a silver stream is winking at you and a tea kettle is whistling your favorite tune. In poetry, personification is particularly enjoyable because it "brings objects to life."
This allows readers to feel as though they're standing within the pages. Not only is personification eye-catching, it can also be quite funny. Together, let's explore humorous examples of personification in poetry.
In children's poetry, personification helps writers capture readers' imaginations. It's likely they'll giggle at the vision of a dancing tree and remember the writer's prose. Nursery rhymes, in particular, are filled with rhythmic stanzas that embody personification.
Let's start with a classic, "Hey Diddle Diddle" by Mother Goose. Here, we enjoy silly imagery, such as a dog laughing and a dish running away with a spoon. While this may be a simple nursery rhyme, without tremendous depth or meaning, it's a great example of personification's ability to charm a smile out of us.
Hey diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
Another example of personification can be enjoyed in the poem, "A Cat Named Joe." Here, a cat thinks differently than cats usually think, creating quite the adventure. Here's an excerpt:
There's a cat named Joe and you wouldn't want to know
But he thinks he'd like to be a Hippopotamus
And it sounds very strange, and he really wants to change
And in that way he's just like a lot of us
Usually, we humans dance in place at the prospect of food. But, in this extract from an anonymous poem, the food is doing the prancing, jumping, and dancing. It's written from a child's perspective and personifies some of our favorite treats. It's called "My Dinner Loves Dancing":
My food loves to prance, to jump, to dance;
I wait for the time, I wait for the chance!
As mommy goes in and out of the room;
tables and chairs become their ballroom!
I flick my fingers; swing my wrist.
Beans and turkey are doing the twist!
Peas, plumbs, apples or mangos;
on to the walls, they're doing the tango!
Lewis Carroll was another talented writer who used his literary devices well. In "The Walrus and the Carpenter," he personifies the moon in a way that could make the most hardened heart smile:
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done -
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun."
Adults should also be able to let out a smile or two at the prospect of personification. The same purpose prevails: it makes the verse stand out in their minds and last forever. Even though there are seven common types of poetry, it's not far-fetched to imagine personification popping into each category.
In "Take a Poem to Lunch" by Denise Rodgers, the poet imagines what it would be like to have lunch with a poem. She'd offer it "fresh cut fruit and apple crunch." It seems the author deduces a poem would make a lovely lunch date:
I'd love to take a poem to lunch
or treat it to a wholesome brunch
of fresh cut fruit and apple crunch.
I'd spread it neatly on the cloth
beside a bowl of chicken broth
and watch a mug of root beer froth.
I'd feel the words collect the mood,
the taste and feel of tempting food
popped in the mouth and slowly chewed,
and get the smell of fresh baked bread
that sniffs inside and fills our head
with thoughts that no word ever said.
Kids aren't the only ones who can enjoy a humorous poem about pets! In "If Dogs Could Talk," Denise Rodgers dreams about a world where dogs join our everyday conversations. Boy, the secrets they could tell! Here's a snippet:
If dogs could talk, what they would say
would simply take your breath away.
Like: I don't want to see your knees.
Or: Pass a bit of roast beef, please.
When dawning sun shines in the east
they'd say: It's time for morning's feast.
When silent, still and somewhat broodish,
their minds are simply on your food dish.
Food plays such an integral part in our lives. We even plan our days around our meals. Given its place of prominence, it's hard not to wax philosophical about food from time to time. Sharon Hendricks brings some of our favorite treats to life in "Dinnertime Chorus":
The teapot sang as the water boiled
The ice cubes cackled in their glass
the teacups chattered to one another.
While the chairs were passing gas
The gravy gurgled merrily
As the oil danced in a pan.
That was fun, right? Personification must've had a prominent place in Sharon Hendricks' heart. She not only personified food, but also nature. In "My Town," we watch her bring leaves, a brook, and a fence post to life. When's the last time you saw a fence post gossip with its neighbor?
The leaves on the ground danced in the wind
The brook sang merrily as it went on its way.
The fence posts gossiped and watched cars go by
which winked at each other just to say hi.
The traffic lights yelled, "Stop, slow, go!"
The tires gripped the road as if clinging to life.
Author Earl Graham had fun bringing a kiss to life. He didn't just send his love to his heart's desire. Rather, he sent a kiss that would land on her knee, climb up her leg, and whisper, "I love you." Take a look at this ode to love in the aptly titled "Kiss":
I am sending you a kiss
That will land on your knee,
Climb up your leg,
Scramble over you back,
And hide in your hair.
Then, when you are about to fall asleep,
It will bite you gently on your neck
And whisper in your ear, "I love you."
Let's end with a classic too. Emily Dickinson's poem, "She Sweeps With Many-Colored Brooms," takes housewifery to a new level. In it, we enjoy a woman who leaves trails of color behind her as she sweeps her house. In the last stanza, we're left with images of flying aprons and brooms that fade into stars:
And still she plies her spotted brooms,
And still the aprons fly,
Till brooms fade softly into stars --
And then I come away.
That was fun, right? How many smiles did you crack? Personification is a member of the literary device family tree, but it's also a citizen of the land of figurative language. Figurative language compares two things in an unusual and interesting way. It lends itself beautifully to poetry because it paints such a vivid mental picture. While you're creating fanciful visions in your mind, enjoy these Examples of Imagery Poems.
In the end, personification can change the way you perceive a poem and even change the meaning of a poem. If you're planning to teach this topic to your students, perhaps they'll enjoy these Examples of Personification for Kids. Happy learning!