What is Hyperbole?

Hyperbole is when certain words are used in a phrase to exaggerate an idea.

Umm, exaggerate much?!


Have you ever told someone something like, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” or “She’ll kill me if I forget her birthday again!” Well then you’ve already got a handle on your hyperbole, which is when certain words are used in a phrase to exaggerate an idea. Since hyperboles are over-exaggerations, and are often not even plausible, they are not meant to be taken literally (you wouldn’t really chow down on a whole horse, and your friend wouldn’t really kill you if you didn’t remember her birthday- I hope). However, this technique helps to stress a certain feeling or mindset on the part of the author. In poetry, hyperbole is used to really force an idea into the reader’s mind. By using a phrase that is a little over the top, even a simple concept is magnified and has a lasting effect. Hyperbole can also be used humorously, in phrases like, “That math problem made my brain explode.”  

Now that you’re hyped up on hyperbole, try to find the ones in these poems.

Acquainted with the Night


I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height,

A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.    

A Word From the Fat Lady


It isn’t how we look up close

so much as in dreams.

Our giant is not so tall,

our lizard boy merely flaunts

crusty skin- not his fault

they keep him in a crate

and bathe him maybe once a week.

When folks scream or clutch their hair

and poke at us and glare and speak

of how we slithered up from Hell,

it is themselves they see:

the preacher with the farmer’s girls

(his bulging eyes, their chicken legs)

or the mother lurching towards the sink,

a baby quivering in her gnarled

hands. Horror is the company

you keep when shades are drawn.

Evil does not reside in cages.


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