Philip Levine

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What are examples of figurative languages used in the poem "What Work Is" by Philip Levine?

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There is not a great deal of figurative language in this poem; it would seem out of place, somehow, to add a lot of lyricism to a poem that is written so straightforwardly about such a difficult topic.

"What work is" touches on how hard it is to not have work: the indignity of the "hours of wasted waiting" so that someone can tell you no, "for any / reason he wants." When the speaker describes how he imagines "you" love your brother, he describes how the love is "flooding you for your brother." This is a metaphor comparing the amount of love one might feel for one's brother to a flood, something hugely powerful and overwhelming—a strong force of nature. A metaphor is a comparison of two unalike things where one thing is said to be another. There is also an allusion to Wagner and some visual imagery in the poem, but these aren't really examples of figurative language.

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