Is there any figurative language in the poem "Fog Galleon" by Yusef Komunyakaa?

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bree1228 | High School Teacher | In Training Educator

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The poem "Fog Galleon" is chock full of figurative language!  One might say Yusef Komunyakaa meant this poem to be a feast for the senses, both literary and beyond.  Let's go line by line in the twenty-four line poem.

Line 1 starts off with a metaphor, speaking of "Horse-headed clouds..."  This comparison of clouds to horses begins the imagery for the entirety of the poem, as the speaker describes a suffocating world throughout his ride in the taxi. The speaker's imagination runs wild as he sees these drab surroundings as stifling and weary.  In fact, the metaphor of the cloud permeates the entire poem with words such as phosphorescence, residue, phantom, and steamy.  This is called extended metaphor.  It is when a metaphor continues not just for a line or two, but for the whole poem.  The close relative of metaphor, the simile, also makes an appearance in lines 10 and 11 when the speaker describes how the town smells, using the key word "like" as with any simile. He is making a comparison between two different images using "like" or "as."

The speaker also uses personification. The bird in lines 5 and 6 squawks aloud, but it is not a bird sound it makes.  Instead, the birds call out, "Ship Ahoy!" The poet humanizes the bird in order to intensify the sense of bleak ghostliness that is outside the confines of the taxi cab.  Also, in line 16, the cool glass pulls the speaker back from the dark world around him.  Even the "residue hunkers down..." It serves as a saving grace for the speaker, as he himself is protected from the outside world of decay.

Alliteration is the repetition of certain sounds throughout the lines of the poem.  This can be seen in many lines of "Fog Galleon," with words that begin with the letter "s."  Look at every line of the poem and count how many times the speaker uses words that begin with the letter "s."

Finally, there is also a great deal of synesthesia.  This kind of figurative language combines the senses, so that one may feel the color of something, or taste the sound of something else. An example from "Fog Galleon" can be seen in lines 10 and 11, when the speaker likens the town's smell to the world's anger.  Obviously, we cannot smell anger, but this is an example of mixing the senses in order to convey deeper meaning.

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