Simile in poetry is a literary device where poets make comparisons using the words “like” or “as,” drawing connections between disparate things to create a stronger image or feeling.
It functions similarly to metaphor but requires “like” or “as”. Similes serve as bridges, helping readers grasp complex ideas by relating them to something familiar.
They infuse poetry with color, depth, and sensory richness, making abstract concepts tangible and emotions palpable. Like a skilled painter choosing the perfect shade, poets use similes to evoke specific moods and create mental pictures that linger in the reader’s mind, transforming mere words into powerful, imaginative experiences.
Here are a few examples of simile in poetry.
The Arrival of the Bee Box by Sylvia Plath
How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appals me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!
In this stanza, Sylvia Plath compares the buzzing of bees to the sounds of a Roman mob. By employing this simile the reader is provided with a unique comparison between two disparate ideas. Read the whole poem here.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
This classic poem is filled with simile, even the title employs the literary device. Lonely as a cloud provides a wonderful image in the reader’s mind. Then, Wordsworth compares the vastness of the daffodils to the continuous and twinkling stars in the Milky Way, using the simile to convey the abundance and brilliance of the flowers. Read the whole poem here.
Mute as a Turnip by C.W. Bryan
Alive as a mote of dust
picked up, discarded, a yardstick
of white light between us.
A dove molts feathers, honest
as my line of sight.
You are quiet as a thought,
tired and inevitable as the moon.
I let the ceiling fan turn
its pirouette, spin on your heel.
Fill my lungs with smoke
until the veil, the veil, the veil,
falls as a mote of dust
invisible to the floorboards.
This poem leans heavily on simile to create images and drive home certain ideas. Mute as a Turnip uses simile to illustrate quietness in a unique and uncommon way. Alive as a mote of dust is used to imply that something is not alive. Simile serves to subvert expectations of language.