It’s a big word that means something fairly simple: anthropomorphism describes the process of projecting human characteristics onto something that is not human.
I talk to my dog. I imagine we have conversations of a sort. This doesn’t actually happen, because my dog is not human and does not understand any human languages. But I project onto him an ability to understand me. I suppose it’s part of my bond with him; I both believe and don’t believe that I can converse with my dog.
For my birthday, I received a wonderful book titled The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy edited by John Brehm. I recently read A.R. Ammon’s poem “Continuing,” in which the speaker, examining the aged, accumulated soil, leaves, “meal and grist” around them, turns to the mountain:
I said to the mountain, what becomes of things:
well, the mountain said, one
mourns the dead but who
can mourn those the dead mourned…
The speaker, contemplating the age of the earth around them and reckoning with the inevitable passage of time, seeks wisdom from the mountain, something that existed before them and will exist long after. This poetic device — creating a mountain that can think and talk and is wise — allows the reader a deeper emotional connection to the poem’s exploration of time and death.
Today, write a poem in which you make something that is not human behave like a human. Maybe a clock is watching a family go about their lives. Maybe your piano feels lonely, not having been played in a long time. Perhaps revisit a time in childhood when your stuffed animals were your best friends. What does the television feel when you turn it off?