Personification in poetry is the process of giving human traits or characteristics to a non-human object or idea. The form of poetry generally involves using figurative language — that is, words and phrases with a meaning other than the standard definition — to convey an idea or emotion. Using personification in poems helps the reader develop a connection between a distant object or idea and feel empathy or sympathy for that idea or object. Poets often use personification to help the reader relate to the concept being presented, and to give a more complete understanding of a difficult concept to comprehend.
An example of personification may involve giving human traits to a tree, which is inanimate. This personification in poetry may read something like this:
"The tree of life can smile upon us all."
This line is written in iambic pentameter, which is a type of lyrical meter very commonly used in poetry. Most poetry, in fact, is written in some form of meter and often with rhyme, though some poems are not confined by these techniques. In the example above, personification in poetry is used by giving the tree a human trait: the tree smiles. In reality, of course, a tree cannot smile because it has no lips or mouth, but in this case, the tree can smile in a figurative sense: it can create happiness or at the very least life in all things, according to this line.
Personification in poetry can also be assigned to more ethereal or intangible concepts. An example might be as follows:
"My fear reached out and touched my heart."
Once again, this line of poetry has a specific meter, and it contains an example of personification: the intangible concept of fear is reaching out and touching, which it cannot do because it has no physical form. Fear is given human traits and characteristics to achieve a certain emotional connection with the reader, rather than to propel a true plot forward with real characters and actions.
Sometimes a poet uses personification so the narrator or speaker can directly address an inanimate object or concept and receive an answer in reply. A poet may, for example, directly address the heavens above, and in the poem, the heavens may answer with a booming voice. This is, of course, impossible, since the heavens above do not have a voice at all, but in the poem, the poet is now allowed to address the concept of heaven, God, or a higher power.