The figurative language of Jesmyn Ward…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes and metaphors from Jesmyn Ward….

I’m not usually drawn to books best described as “bleak.” I usually prefer to live on the sunny side of the street. But rave reviews for the challenging novel Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (pictured above), caused me to give the work a try. And I am so happy I did.

Ward is a remarkable writer with a terrific eye and ear for both simile and metaphor. Here are my favourite examples from Sing, her most recent work:

  • This spring is stubborn; most days, it won’t make way for warmth. The chill stays like water in a bad-draining tub.
  • He hugged me before he left, and when he leaned in close to my face all I could see were his eyes, green as the pines, and the way his faced turned red in splotches: his cheeks, his mouth, the edges of his nose, where the veins were little scarlet streams under the skin.
  • It felt weird to sit across the table from Leonie and make a fried potato sandwich while she stared off into space and crossed her legs and kicked her feet, let cigarette smoke seep out of her lips and wreathe her head like a veil.
  • She smells like hay baked in the sun, warm milk, and baby powder.
  • “Wheels on the Bus’” I say. I remember that one from Head Start: sometimes the local nuns would visit the school, acoustic guitars slung over their backs like hunting rifles, and play for us.
  • He had a big head shaped like an onion, the kind of head seemed too big for his body: a body all bones and skin.
  • She’s skinny, damn near as thin as Mama, and her buttoned-up work shirt hangs on her like a flat sheet spread to dry on a clothesline
  • Her hair smells like coconuts from the oil Mam used to put in it, the one that I use now when I pull her hair into little ponytails: two little cotton balls on the sides of her head.
  • The wisteria planted on each side of the front steps has rooted thick into the earth, grown as big around as a man’s muscley arm, and had twisted and twined up the railing to wave thick as a curtain along the front of the porch.
  • My mouth tastes like I’ve been sucking on chalk and licking oyster shells, and my eyes feel grainy.
  • His afro is so long it sprouts from his head like Spanish moss.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on May 24/18.

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