Poetic Imagery

Poetic Imagery

Do you want to make your poetry more life-like, descriptive, and captivating? Consider using imagery. This popular poetic device can help to bring your poetry (and any type of writing) to life.

What is Imagery?

Imagery is a poetic device that refers to the use of vivid descriptions that bring a poem to life.

The root of the word, Imagine, can help writers understand it’s meaning; imagery allows readers to get a more sensual sense of what a poem feels like, represents, and means.

Types of Imagery in Poetry

There are a few types of imagery that you can use to enhance your poetry.

  • Auditory Imagery: The use of specific sounds to create a poems surroundings.
  • Kinaesthetic Imagery: The use of movement, to display and resonate with readers how something is moving or shifting.
  • Olfactory (Smell) Imagery: They say smell is the last sense a person has before they pass away. Olfactory imagery refers to the use of smell to create and elicit memories or emotions from readers.
  • Tactile Imagery: The using texture descriptors in a poem.
  • Visual Imagery: The sights described in a poetry to describe a piece’s setting.

Examples of Imagery in Poetry

Birches by Robert Frost

Often you must have seen them

Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning

After a rain. They click upon themselves

As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored

As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

There are so many sensory descriptors in Frost uses in to describe birch trees. In the first like, he mentions ice on a sunny morning. If you have ever been blinded by sunshine on fresh snow, you know exactly what Frost is referencing here. When he writes, “they click” he is referring to the sound of tree branches hitting one another and making a clicking sound due to the ice they are encased in. Using olfactory and visual imagery, Birches comes to life in only five lines.

The Wild Swans, by Jackie Morris

The lower floors were warm from the kitchen fires and rich with the scent of baking and roasting, bright with the bustle of busy working. The higher floors danced with the light that flooded in through the casement windows.

Have you ever walk across a warm floor? Or been led into the kitchen because of the smells traveling around your home? Morris brings the scene above to life by using visual, tactile, and olfactory imagery.

How to Use Imagery in Your Poetry

Want to use imagery in your poetry? We have a few tips for you.

  1. Use your senses: Adding descriptors including sight, sound, smell, touch and taste can significantly enhance your poetry and help you to create a traceable narrative.
  2. Use action verbs: Verbs like “whisper”, “sighed”, or “clenched” set the tone and create vivid imagery in your work.
  3. Practice: The more you practice writing with imagery, the more creative you will be able to be. Honestly, it just takes reps, and that’s okay. Being cognizant of imagery and how to incorporate it will elevate the quality of poetry you write.

Imagery Exercise

Create a list of 25 words:

  • 5 sights
  • 5 sounds
  • 5 smells
  • 5 touch
  • and 5 tastes

Here is my (our editor’s) list:

Sights: tower, field, bridge, gas station, library

Sounds: whistle, boom, slam, squeak, trickle

Smells: stew, vinegar, lemons, dust, dirt

Touch: grainy, rough, soft, wool, cold

Tastes: acid, fermentation, grain, capers, iron

Now, select a word from each of the sensory categories above and put into a short poem or story.

Our Example: As I walked by, every shelf in the library squeaked with history; grainy fibers bound by fermented knowledge, all dust-covered from sitting in one place.

Ready to Practice Using Imagery?

Remember that practice makes perfect whenever it comes to working on a new element of your writing. We recommend seeking our writing prompts to help you along your journey. When you’ve written something you’re proud of, submit it to our magazine!

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