Anaphorically Speaking

anaphora-largeI’m back in college, which is most likely a manifestation of my mid-life unraveling. It’s been an awkward experience to be one of the “old ladies” in a sea of 19 year olds, but it gives me an edge that I didn’t have my first go-around. I’ve never had more fun in school.

Among my classes is Poetry—never my best subject, but my newest favorite hobby. Like Kelly Cammack proved in an earlier post, poetic devices can be used to enrich all kinds of writing.

If you are one of the two people who regularly read this blog, you are in for a writing adventure. It’s called an anaphora—the repetition of a word or expression at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, or verses especially for rhetorical or poetic effect.* Snore… I know, hang in there.

An easy way to understand what an anaphora is — just sing that creepy creepster song (that you know you love) by The Police.

Every breath you take,
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

Shudder. Still, it’s a great example because the word “every” is an obvious anaphora.

Sweet. So what?

I don’t think you can understand the power of this format until you try it out for yourself. Try starting with the anaphora “I am thinking…” or “I remember…” Jot down as many memories as come to your mind. Here is what I came up with. As poetry, it’s not perfect, but the memory came alive, and I remembered little details that may not have come in any other way. I was blown away with the result—poetry in story form.

I remember wearing a slap on bracelet on one wrist, and the friendship bracelet you made me on the other.

I remember how you begged my mother to buy me those rollerblades so I could hang out with you and “the guys”.

I remember thinking she must have had a bigger crush on you than I did, because she actually said yes.

I remember wobbling legs like a newborn fawn.

I remember I wasn’t embarrassed when you steadied me.

I remember how the plastic blistered my shins, but I rode through the pain because I didn’t want to disappoint you.

I remember wishing I could go faster, but I was too scared.

I remember watching you and your friends fly down the concrete stairwell, wheels kissing each step with a light click, click, click.

I remember you dared me to try.

I remember getting a long head start.

I remember going faster than I ever had before, and I was scared.

I remember when it was too late to change my mind.

I remember the way my knees jarred up and down and how the wheels slapped each step with a clunk, clunk, clunk.

I remember the elation that I’d almost made it — still alive, still upright.

I remember the burn of skidding ten feet on my palms at the bottom.

I remember how you stared at me in wonderment — impressed that I tried, forgetting that I failed.

I remember walking behind you through the park; you carried my rollerblades and nervously chattered about how The Pixies were the best band ever.

I remember you stopped talking to kiss me.

I remember wishing I could go faster, but I was too scared.


How can you use anaphoras as a launching point for your stories? Here are a few ideas—start your sentences with:

What if…

Who knew…

My main character is angry because…

When the antagonist was a child…

If you want to survive you must…

When I was lost…

I thought you’d never…

My mom always said…

I always knew…


Can you write an entire page with the same prompt? Try it out. If you are feeling particularly brave, post some of your results.


* “Anaphora.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.

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