What Is The Meaning Of Imagery In Poetry

Definition of Imagery in Poetry

Imagery in poetry is the practice of using sensory words to create an impression in the reader’s mind of the poet’s experience, which may be real or imagined. Images help portray the poem’s central theme and convey what the poet is attempting to express. A poem’s imagery provides context and support for the story, feeling and idea behind it.

The Ingredients behind Imagery

Throughout a poem, the reader is bombarded with multiple senses. This relates to sight, smells, sensations, taste and sound, sometimes providing an almost tangible picture of the setting for each poem. Dr Kassander A. Torvik, Ph.D. of Marywood University states, “ Poets use imagery, which includes figures of speech such as alliteration or any kind of word play, to convey an idea or emotion in an artistic manner. By invoking an image, a poet makes an emotionally charged concept vivid and understandable.”

Examples of Imagery in Poetry

For example, in the poem The Road Not Taken, the poet Robert Frost utilizes imagery to show the contrast between the two paths a traveller could take. The poem reads, “ The Road not Taken / Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” Through these lines, Frost paints a vivid picture of a road that has seen less use, suggesting the lonesome journey one has taken.

Positive Effects of Imagery

The use of images in poetry can evoke a positive emotional reaction. For example, imagery can help the reader visualise a beautiful scene or evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Moreover, imagery can trigger powerful memories, both on a personal and cultural level, enabling the reader to identify and connect with the work on a personal level.

The Challenge of Imagery

Imagery in poetry can be difficult to master, since it must go beyond just describing a scene. While it is possible to create a vivid image, the poet must also use words that express emotion. As such, imagery in poetry should be the perfect balance between providing a clear image and expressing the poet’s feelings.

Technical Aspects

When examining poetry, one can differentiate between literal, verbal and figurative imagery. Literal imagery make sense and involve things that are real and can be seen and heard in the physical world. Verbal imagery is used to express emotions through sounds such as onomatopoeia. Figurative imagery involves using similes, metaphors, personifications, and other devices for the purpose of creating an image which can’t be seen in the physical world.

The Role of Poetic Devices

Metaphors, similes and personification are important tools for creating imagery in poetry. For example, “Her smile was like the sunshine” is a metaphor, as it compares her smile to sunshine. By contrast, similes involve a comparison between two similar things, as in “She smiled like a flower in bloom”. Personification involves ascribing human characteristics to an animal, object or concept, as in “The sea roared in anger”.

Visual Imagery

Visual imagery involves the creative use of words to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind. This can be done through the use of metaphors, similes and other forms of figurative language. This type of imagery is particularly prominent in Romantic poetry and other types of literature that focus on creating an emotional response in the reader.

Aural Imagery

Aural imagery is a type of imagery that focuses on auditory elements. This type of imagery is more ambiguous than visual imagery, since it can be used to evoke both pleasant and unpleasant sounds. For example, an aural image could refer to the sound of the wind, which might evoke either peacefulness or potential danger, depending on the context of the poem.

Olfactory and Gustatory Imagery

Olfactory and gustatory imagery involve the use of sensory words to evoke smells and tastes in the reader. In poetry, this type of imagery is typically used to evoke feelings of nostalgia, comfort or pleasure. Oftentimes, these types of imagery will be used in conjunction with visual imagery, as both elements can help create a more vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Tactile Imagery

Tactile imagery refers to the use of words to create an image of touch. This type of imagery is used to evoke feelings of comfort, pleasure, fear or danger in the reader. Tactile imagery is a powerful tool for creating vivid, emotionally charged images in the reader’s mind.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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