I mean, does a tree really desire to have human qualities attributed to it? Then, does a tree even have desire? Can’t a tree stand alone, sovereign, without humans endowing it with our virtues, vices, qualities or behaviors?
Maybe not! Maybe writers and poets use personification as a means to comprehend what is termed “other”. By comparing something to ourselves, perhaps we think we have an understanding of what it is or isn’t.
According to poet and writer, Mary Oliver, “Personification is the term used when one gives a physical characteristic or innate quality of animation to something that is inanimate…” She gives an example from poet, James Wright–
“I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off
Washing its hands.”
A second definition for personification is from poet and writer, Frances Mayes: “An emotion or something inhuman, such as a mountain or love or a tree, is given human qualities.”
A few more examples:
- from Stephen Spender, “…whispers of wind in the listening sky…”
- from William Sharp, “…the sleeping sea…” OR “…And in the soft ear of Spring, light voices sing.”
- from creative soul and nature sprite, Opal Whiteley, “I danced on a log…as the wind does play the harps in the forest.”
WRITING PROMPT: Choose something in nature with which you feel a connection. Animate it with human qualities. Use poetry or prose, whatever makes you feel more at ease. Does this type of comparison come easy to you?
(photo of Castle Lake by Christine O’Brien)
“The sky smiled at its reflection in the lake.”