Similes and metaphors are doing the same thing. They make a link in the reader’s mind between two images. A metaphor uses one image to suggest another without using the word ‘like’. It is a subtle hint, and it leaves the reader’s imagination to complete the connection. In ‘Catrin’ I turn the umbilical cord into ‘that old rope’. Grace Nichols talks of ‘The howling ship of the wind’. (‘Hurricane hits England’)

A simile is more direct. ‘Like’ can prevent a confusion of meaning. Grace Nicols, in the same poem, the same verse, says the wind is ‘Like some dark ancestral spectre’. Seamus Heaney describes how the sea spray ‘spits like a tame cat/ turned savage.’ There are similes in my poems too, but beware! In ‘Mali’, ‘I bake her a cake like our house’ is NOT a simile. It is a description of the cake, shaped and decorated to look like our house. I can find plenty of metaphors in almost every one of my poems, but in the AQA anthology selection I can find only one simile. It’s in the second line from the end of ‘October’: ‘I must write like the wind’. With that simile I picked up, quite instinctively, from a metaphor in the first two lines of that verse:

‘Over the page the pen
runs faster than wind’s white steps over grass.’