Poetic imagery | literature (2023)

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poetic imagery, the sensory and figurative language used in poetry.

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The object or experience that a poet is contemplating is usually perceived by that poet in a relationship to some second object or event, person, or thing. The poet may be thought to transfer from this second object certain qualities, which are then perceived as attributes of the original object, the poet’s intention being to decorate, illuminate, emphasize, or renew by such transferences the original character of that which is contemplated. The making or finding of the image is an activity by which the poet invites the reader to establish certain relationships, which in turn involve value judgments.

Image and symbol are, in one sense, the outcome of the poet’s impulse to perceive unity in diversity or to draw together a number of apparently unrelated experiences or to communicate through their submerged or penumbral statements meanings that are beyond the resources of direct language. Images also differ in the depth or profundity or complexity of the meanings implied, as well as in their purpose and origin, and they may derive additional force and vitality from their contextual relation to other images in the poem.

The following is a simile from “The Exequy” (1624) by the English poet and bishop Henry King on the death of his young wife:

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But hark! My pulse like a soft drum
Beats my approach, tells thee I come….

The “soft drum,” in conjunction with the “approach,” suggests both the advance party of the army nearing the billets for the night and the poet’s slow, inexorable, and welcome progress to death and reunion.

If the same image is used consistently throughout a poem, it may be appropriate to call it a symbol. It may be thought of also in terms of correspondences; a person, event, object, or myth is perceived by the poet to embody a number of significances, to which the reader’s attention is therefore directed. Religious symbols offer some of the most familiar examples. Other symbols frequently used in poetry include birds, beasts, and reptiles, heavenly bodies, sea and desert, forest and river, music and dance, and artifacts of many kinds.

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Certain metaphors and symbols, because they can be identified throughout world literature, have been called archetypal. Their continued use has suggested to some literary scholars that they correspond to profound and perennial aspects of the human situation. Among them are many myths, such as the descent into the underworld, the slaying of the dragon, and the rescue from the enchanted castle; flowers of all kinds, often symbolizing womanhood or its virtues; tower, tree, cave; the sea voyage; and fountain or well.

This article was most recently revised and updated by J.E. Luebering.

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What is an example of imagery in poetry? ›

Visual imagery.

A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. In this poem, inspired by a walk Wordsworth took with his sister, the poet uses simile to compare his lonely wandering to the aimless flight of a cloud.

What is poetic imagery? ›

poetic imagery, the sensory and figurative language used in poetry. Related Topics: poetry imagery. See all related content → The object or experience that a poet is contemplating is usually perceived by that poet in a relationship to some second object or event, person, or thing.

What are the six 6 types of poetic imagery? ›

There are seven distinct types of imagery:
  • Visual.
  • Auditory.
  • Olfactory.
  • Gustatory.
  • Tactile.
  • Kinesthetic.
  • Organic.

What are the 5 imagery in poetry? ›

In this article, we examine the 5 types of imagery—visual, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, and auditory.

What are examples of imagery sentences? ›

Imagery using touch: After the long run, he collapsed in the grass with tired and burning muscles. The grass tickled his skin and sweat cooled on his brow. In this example, imagery is used to describe the feeling of strained muscles, grass's tickle, and sweat cooling on skin.

Is sensory imagery a poetic device? ›

Sensory imagery is a literary device writers employ to engage a reader's mind on multiple levels. Sensory imagery explores the five human senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.

What are elements of poetry? ›

The basic elements of poetry include meter, rhyme, scheme, verse, and stanza. In order to dive deeper into poetry, students will first need to understand these structural elements.

What are the 5 sensory imagery? ›

The five types of imagery (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and gustatory) relate to the five senses. Writers use imagery to build a specific sensory experience for readers to imagine and relate to. Literary devices such as simile and metaphor can be used to create imagery.

What are the 7 types of imagery? ›

To reinforce their messages, poets employ auditory, gustatory, kinesthetic, olfactory, organic, tactile or visual imagery, which are the seven major types that literary authorities recognize.

What are 4 lines in a poem called? ›

A quatrain in poetry is a series of four-lines that make one verse of a poem, known as a stanza. A quatrain can be its own poem or one section within a larger poem. The poetic term is derived from the French word “quatre,” which means “four.”

What is a 30 line poem called? ›

Explore the glossary of poetic terms. The sestina is a complex, thirty-nine-line poem featuring the intricate repetition of end-words in six stanzas and an envoi. Rules of the Sestina Form.

What is a 11 line poem called? ›

11 lines – Roundel. 12 lines – Scottish Stanza. 13 lines – Terza. 14 lines – Sonnet / Stanza Onegin / Terza.

What is an example of tactile imagery? ›

Tactile imagery – Tactile refers to the sense of touching things. Tactile imagery describes how things feel to the touch. For example, “The toad was slimy in her hands.”

Why do poets use imagery? ›

Poets use images to express their ideas or feelings. In order to understand the meaning of a poem, it is important to understand the way imagery has been used. Different types of imagery Personification is giving human qualities to animals or objects.

Is imagery always figurative? ›

It's a common misconception that imagery, or vivid descriptive language, is a kind of figurative language. In fact, writers can use figurative language as one tool to help create imagery, but imagery does not have to use figurative language.

What is the 7 elements of poetry? ›

These elements may include, voice, diction, imagery, figures of speech, symbolism and allegory, syntax, sound, rhythm and meter, and structure.

What are the 3 main types of poetry? ›

There are three main kinds of poetry: narrative, dramatic and lyrical. It is not always possible to make distinction between them. For example, an epic poem can contain lyrical passages, or lyrical poem can contain narrative parts.

What are the rules of poetry? ›

There are no officially sanctioned rules of poetry. However, as with all creative writing, having some degree of structure can help you reign in your ideas and work productively.

What is imagery in poetry for Kids? ›

poetic device: Imagery

Imagery means using figurative language in a way that appeals to our physical senses. Although the word “imagery” sounds like it refers only to visual language—the sense of sight—it actually refers to any of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

What is imagery for Kids example? ›

Imagery is when a writer appeals to a reader's senses by using descriptive and figurative language. This can include the sense of taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound.

What is visual imagery example? ›

Visual Imagery is about what writers can show the reader at a particular place; it could range from objects, other people, or something unusual. Let us take a look at the related example sentences: The white frost creeping up on the windowpane made her look at her car covered under a 3-inch thick blanket of the snow.

What is emotional imagery? ›

Individuals are asked to vividly imagine feared or distressing images or events. Although it can be difficult to imagine traumatic or feared experiences, through extended exposure the intensity of distress is reduced.

What are the 6 sensory images? ›

6 types of sensory imagery
  • Color.
  • Size.
  • Shape.
  • Lightness or darkness.
  • Shadows.
  • Shade or hue.

What is imagery simple words? ›

As human beings, we understand the world through our senses—what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, and what we touch. To represent this process in their literary works, storytellers and poets use vivid language designed to appeal to these senses. This language is called imagery.


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