by Reese Leyva ǀ @reese.leyva
One powerful, and memorable, aspect of poetry arises when two separate and distinct things (people, objects, feelings, weather patterns, etc.) come together…or collide.
Like souls and oceans.
Like heartbreak and whiskey.
Like fury and lightning.
To manage this combination or collision of ideas, writers will compare or contrast the two things in their work.
What’s the difference, you ask?
Technically, to compare means to find the similarities while to contrast means to find the differences.
In poetry, these tools are the perfect way to give your readers an “in” into your poem, a foothold upon which they can stand to experience the feeling or emotion you’re setting out for them.
Maybe your reader doesn’t know what it’s like to experience snow, but when you compare a pile of snow to a pile of autumn leaves, both eagerly waiting to get jumped into and tossed around, perhaps your reader will understand. Hopefully, there will be an “A-ha!” moment where your reader recalls last fall’s piles of playful leaves and thinks, “snow must be fun!”
Or maybe your reader thinks they know how it feels to be insulted…until you write that you “drank that insult down like a shot of hot tequila.” Then they have to stop, and think, and say, “Ouch! That hurt!” Because who would choose to ingest an insult rather than shake it off, or let it bounce off and roll away? And who drinks hot shots of tequila? Isn’t room temperature tequila harsh enough?
Thus, comparing and contrasting helps readers share your experiences and/or question their own. Such is the power of poetry!
As you write your next poem, give comparing and contrasting a try. Find similarities in objects that seem completely different. Find differences in objects that seem obviously similar. Watch how these tools change your writing. Use them to create a connection between you and your reader – which is the mark of effective poetry.
Reese Leyva ǀ @reese.leyva
Reese is a poet and writer based in the PNW, U.S.A. Her shorter works can be found on Instagram (direct messages welcome!) and longer poems are available on her website www.reeseleyva.com.