How to Use Visual Imagery in Poetry
In order to get the full gist of how imagery works, especially in poetry, let’s consider the words of Naomi Shihab. She said— as a direct line to human feeling, empathic experience, genuine language and detail, poetry is everything that headlines news is not. It takes us inside situations, helps us imagine life from more than one perspective, honors imagery and metaphor – those great tools of thought – and deepens our confidence in a meaningful world. Her revered view of poetry spans through its relevance but more importantly, she hinted us on two great poetry tools humanity has ever known; imagery and metaphor.
Like metaphor, irony, simile and others; imagery is not just a concept in poetry, it is an important tool that brightens the meaning of words beyond the boundaries of alphabet. We are going to focus on the use of imagery in literature.
What is Imagery?
Opposite to what imagery mean in the casual sense, imagery in poetry is a term given to the elements that arouses the five senses in a poem. These poetry imagery elements have the ability of triggering the five senses even beyond the scope of the visual imagery.
With the use of vast literary tools such as; simile, metaphor onomatopoeia, metonymy and personification and synecdoche amongst others, writers can successfully bring to our consciousness the beautiful picture of things that exists and those that don’t.
The pleasure most people get from imagery alone, makes them prefer poetic imagists to non imagist. The love for imagery made it seem, to the poets of the early 20th century, as though it was the most important aspect of poetry. Of course, not every poet adopts imagery, however, poetic archives without imagist poems sometimes seems empty and unworthy of the reader’s attention.
Sometimes, instead of using metaphors or its poetic cohorts, imagists use concrete detail in bringing poems to life.
What is Concrete detail?
Generally speaking, the term ‘concrete detail ‘refers to very distinct data, which is presented to explain, portray or rationalize a thing. Concrete details bring comprehension and allow readers to get a full picture of what the poet is depicting.
Unlike picture poetry, which is more visual and consists of 2-3 dimensional images, concrete details adopt the complete descriptive use of words.
What are poetry images?
Picture poetry, which is also known as graphic poetry, emerged in the 1950’s. It uses images that are formed from words—in addition to punctuation marks-drawings gotten from words. This undiluted art can be simple or complex, depending on the choice of the writer.
The essence of including images in writing is giving the words a sense of existence in the reader’s mind. In a bid of achieving this sole aim, different types of poetic imagery emerged powerfully.
Types of Imagery
Basically—with respect to the five human senses— there are seven discrete forms of imagery in poetry, viz.
Visual Imagery: it consists of elements which allures the sight. Its scenery capabilities give poetic lines the ability to paint an event in the reader’s head.
Auditory Imagery: Unlike visual imagery, auditory imagery elements lay more emphasis on the audible part of reality. These elements can appear in the form of onomatopoeia. Words like—“achoo!” “cacaw!” “bang!”— work to illustrate the sounds that we are already familiar with.
Olfactory Imagery: it consists of elements that describe a specific scent/smell. Illustrating a particular scent of a food or fruit can help readers imagine the taste.
Gustatory Imagery: its elements are adopted when the writer wants to describe the taste of a thing.
Tactile: it deals with sensitivity, that is, the sense of touch
Kinesthetic Imagery: it consists of elements that describe the movement of objects or people. It’s a kind of poetic tool that helps describe an event accurately.
Organic imagery: by far, this is one of the most tasking to use; it deals with arousing a kind of emotion in the reader’s body. Words that make people feel elated, sad, fearful, and nostalgic even lost are all extremely effective organic imagery.
How to Use Successfully Imagery in Poetry
In order to begin the process of imagery, you must firstly learn to visualize. Visualization is also known as imagination, only that the latter is directed towards an aim.
Begin by writing a list of the things that arouse your five senses, in order to gain good feel of the environment you live in, as well as the visual images there. Peradventure you want to go fictional, and then you must be able to track your imaginations and flow with them.
Before we proceed, consider these six solid hints below:
- Find a perfect location: Pick a public space, where people are passing—it may be a coffee shop, library, bus stop, school quadrangle, etc. Make sure, this is a place you are well attached or conversant with: Choosing a well known area gives your mind an edge, when it comes to imagery. Stay in that place for nothing less than 30minutes.
- Be observant: Using all your five senses, observe most of the things occurring in that environment.
- Make detailed and organized notes: the main aim of observing is to draw inferences, observations and conclusions, where they may fit. Pen down your random observations; record them in any form you prefer, with all the details you can garner. Do this or at least 20 distinctive images that arouse your attention.
- Go serene:the usefulness of going serene is to make sure your brain is in the best condition to remember all you experienced and serenity plays a large role in brain memory. After getting the clear image of those 20 elements; spend another 30minutes in serenity—alone and focused.
- Mediate on each element on the list: mull over the strongest memories your mind can recollect from your experience in that environment, try to recapture the elements noted in the list.
- Keep repeating till the images are stuck:Repeat this process until your mind is able to paint for you, a picture that is well defined, heavily detailed and worthy of reckoning.
After getting the full image and its details, you are ready to pen them down in literary words. Follow the five steps below to do that:
- Depict the place from which you garnered your data using continual phrases as a refrain (such as “the queen guards are here”).
- Describe people using non-human metaphors.
- Try your best to paint the elements you noted in the landscape in a more literary manner and if opportune, make it rhyme.
- After making a lot of descriptions, which are not necessarily bounded by the elements you observed, try combining the descriptive phrases in ways that makes sense or arouses interest. Even if you’re not good at concocting rhymes, you should make every verse go in line with the next one and so on.
- Make the introductory verses unique and simple. You can try painting a little part of the landscape first, in great detail before proceeding to other elements. Peradventure you want to deviate from the environment details into a bigger concept, which is not bounded by the imagery of the environment, it is allowed but it must be cohesive and appealing even I it won’t make any logical sense.
A Deep Dive Into Imagery
In order to take our sole subject, imagery a bit deeper, we must be ready to explore its full potentials thoroughly. Although the main aim of this article is to teach the basics of imagery and how it can be used enhance poetry but it is not a crime if you’re initiated deeper into the full concept. The goal of imagery is not to dominate your poetic thoughts; its aim is to add little spice and direct the trajectory of your thoughts, which of course, might be alien to your immediate environment.
In summary, whenever you use imagery in your poetry, be creative enough to think out of the box and flow with the five senses. For instance, select one image from your observation, let it direct you but do not allow it to limit you. Let your five senses spark within you another world entirely.
A very good example is the poem “shirt” written by Robert Pinsky. In the poem, he begun with a physical analysis but as his imaginations led him, he diverted from the physical observations to a more solid concept.
The nearly invisible stitches
Along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop
By Koreans or Malaysians
Gossiping over tea
And noodles on their break.”
By the tenth line, the diversion was already leading us to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911, then a trip via Scotland, which finally led us to the current-day factory in the Southern part of Carolina where this shirt was well inspected by an individual named ‘Irma’ –we presume the speaker already knows through research, the inspection sticker on the inside of the fabric. Via history, this poem takes us into a scenery imagination, at a very high speed and intensity.
This poem shows the power of imagery, not only as an imaginative ingredient but also as an unlimited directive or poets and readers of poem.
In poetry; creativity oftentimes gets unappreciated by readers because they feel alienated from the concept used by the poet. Imagery comes handy whenever, poets want to marry their ideas with the reality o their times, thereby giving their ideas a good chance of surviving. Without imagery, some ideas are good as dead and most imaginations would die undiscovered in the poetic verses they are embedded.
By following the principles and rules given in this article, you would be able to diversify the imaginations inspired by your environment and develop them into appealing poems.