Imagery

“In poetry, imagery is a valid and vibrant form of description that appeals to readers’ senses and imagination. Despite the word’s connotation, ‘imagery’ is not focused solely on visual representations or mental images – it refers to the full spectrum of sensory experiences, including internal emotions and physical sensations.”

Billy Collins

Imagery is a piece of language that relates to sensory experiences and comprises figures of speech. To the poet this helps build a bond with the reader that can help convey an idea or message through connecting with the reader’s primary senses of tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, seeing and internal emotions. A reader will readily taste, feel, smell, or hear before thinking, choosing, analyzing, or arguing.

To keep readers close to our poetic world, we as poets must stay close to imagery to concretize a fundamental awareness of our physical world. By building on image after image, you can make an entire poem come to life to a reader and can evoke complex states of understanding and feeling. Use figurative language to evoke sensory experience like eating a hotdog. Describe the taste, describe the shape, describe the snap of the weiner, and describe the toppings.

Poets mainly use the techniques of simile, metaphor, personification, and onamatopeia to achieve this through several types of imagery. The seven kinds of imagery are as follows:

  1. Visual Imagery: An appeal to sight by describing an object’s size, color, shape, etc. Main techniques used to do this are simile, metaphor, and personification.
  2. Auditory Imagery: Appeal to hearing. Includes music (lyrical poems), pleasant sounds, harsh noises, and silence. Main technique to achieve this is onamatopeia, or creating words that sound like what they describe: splish splash, tick tock, etc.
  3. Gustatory Imagery: Appeal to taste by describing something the narrator tastes.
  4. Tactile Imagery: Appeal to sense of touch by describing something the narrator touches. Describe smooth, rough, temperature, sharp, dull, etc.
  5. Olfactory Imagery: Poet appeals to a sense of smell. This includes both pleasant and off-putting odors.
  6. Kinesthetic Imagery: Appeal by the poet to the sense of motion of an object or the reader. May be a car chase, a snail crawling, a speeding bullet, a car crash, fallign down on the ice during a hockey game, etc.
  7. Organic Imagery: Appeal to emotion or sensations felt by the body like fatigue, hunger, love, thirst, despair,or loathing.

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