To use imagery is to create amental picture in language Imagine>>Imagery>>Images. The poet imagines something. The poet uses imagery to describe what she has imagined. The reader translates the imagery into images—that is the imagery forces the reader to imagine what the poet saw, heard, felt, smelled or tasted.
Imagery is language that appealsto the senses Visual imagery—appeals to sight Aural (or auditory) imagery—appeals to hearing Tactile imagery—appeals to touch Olfactory imagery—appeals to smell Gustatory imagery—appeals to taste
Language must be vivid Sometimes people mistakenly say that any words referencing something that can be seen or heard constitute imagery. Instead we are talking about vivid language. On the next two slides I will quote examples of imagery and paraphrase the idea without using imagery in red font so you can see the difference.
Visual Color, size, brightness, shape, position, motion “shoots dangled and drooped. . . Hung down long yellow evil necks” The bulbs were sprouting and their shoots hung down from the boxes where they were stored “As he paces in cramped circles over and over,/ the movement of his powerful, soft strides/ is like a ritual dance” The panther paced in his cage “the white eyes writhing in his face” His eyes rolled back so you could not see the pupils and irises.
Aural “In a wailful choir the small gnats mourn” “Hedge crickets sing” “Gathering swallows twitter in the skies” Gnats, crickets and swallows all make noises at dusk “Deaf even to the hoots of gas shells dropping softly behind” They couldn’t even hear the sound of the gas shells
Olfactory “I could smell them, a seething rancid odor of feces and feathers and naked scaly feet that crawled down my throat and burned my nostrils” (from “Carnal Knowledge”) “tepid water smelling of the cedar bucket and of living beech trees” (from “Barn Burning”) “Peach trees breathe their sweetness” “Drowsed with the fume of poppies”
Tactile Texture, weight, temperature, pain, pleasure, all forms of touch “. . .took my hand in a hard, calloused grip” “My right ear scraped a buckle” “Their claws dug at the back of my shoulders, the crown of my head” “Sun-warm clothes at twilight” “Put on his clothes in the blue-black cold”
Gustatory “the salty sweetness of her skin” “Slices of warm bread spread with peach butter” “The orange-sponge cake is rising in the oven. . . .I’ll watch you drench your slice of it in canned peaches.”
Different kinds of imagery cancombine in a single image “I hear the cold splintering, breaking” Aural and tactile “My hair freshly washed. . .like a bridal veil” Visual primarily but also evokes tactile and olfactory through words “freshly washed”
Images do not have to be literal “And the hapless Soldier’s sigh/Runs in blood down Palace walls” Literally=the government is indifferent to the pain and death faced by the soldier “And here we are as on a darkling plain/ Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight/ Where ignorant armies clash by night” This is a simile comparing life to a struggle on a dark battlefield where the soldiers don’t know who or what they are fighting
Imagery can be effectivelycombined with other techniques Hyperbole: “The whiskey on your breath/could make a small boy dizzy” (“My Papa’s Waltz”) Simile: “Dim through the misty panes and thick green light/as under a green sea I saw him drowning” (“Dulce et Decorum est”) Sound effects: “cracked hands that ached/ from labor in the weekday weather” (“Those Winter Sundays”)—note repeated k, long a and w sounds We will talk about these techniques in later chapters.