Imagery in Poetry

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Poetry:
Imagery and Figurative Language
ENH 110
Answer these questions about the
following paintings:
1. What is the image?
2. What details are used to create the image?
3. What is the purpose of the image?
4. How do the details of the image affect the painting
overall?
Pablo Picasso- “The Old Guitarist”
Georges Seurat- “Sunday Afternoon on
the Island of La Grande Jatte”
Van Gogh- “The Starry Night”
Grant Wood- “American Gothic”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“The Cross of Snow”
In the long, sleepless watches of the
night,
A gentle face--the face of one long dead-Looks at me from the wall, where round its
head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died, and soul more
white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the
changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she
died.
Imagery

Imagery is the painting of pictures in the reader’s mind through
the use of language and is based on the five senses: sight, taste,
sound, touch, and smell.

Because poetry is such a condensed form of language, poets
tend to make greater use of imagery than novelists. Images
take a variety of forms.

They can:
•
Use a comparison between one thing and another, to develop the
picture that is created. This type of image includes similes and
metaphors.
•
Create sound pictures, by using words that make a sound like the
thing that is being described, or that add rhythm to the poem.
Examples of this type of imagery include alliteration and
onomatopoeia.
Diction

Diction will be specific, qualified or compared, to trigger
images familiar from a reader’s own experience.
Ex: dog- greyhound


flower- daisy
Sizes, colors, specific movements, or particular identifying
features also need to be included in the description
When analyzing poetry, notice how description inspires specific
images, and how shape, color, relationship and perspective
become clear through words and phrases.
Basic Images:
Figures of Speech

The creation of a mental image often relies on the use of a comparison made
through figures of speech.

Metaphor-makes an implicit comparison describing something as if it were
something else
EX: “At the Hospital”-David Ferry
She was the sentence the cancer spoke at last,
Its blurred grammar finally clarified.
What, exactly, has “clarified” the cancer’s “blurred grammar”?

Simile- makes an explicit comparison between dissimilar objects and
involve the word like or as
Ex: “death is like a sunset” or “life is like a rollercoaster”
Controlling Metaphors

When a metaphor is so extensive that it controls or
dominates the entire poem, it is referred to as a
controlling metaphor.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He
maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He
restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's
sake.
4 Yea, though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for
thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou
preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest
my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely
goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in
the house of the LORD for ever.
Analyzing Imagery
1. What type of image is being used?
2. Why is this particular image being used?
3. What is the effect of this image on the reader?
4. How does the image contribute to the poem as a whole?

When you analyse imagery, you should suggest a possible
interpretation, rather than stating your ideas as definite.
Sunday
By Nikki Giovanni
hot rolls in a summer basket
1
fried chicken piled on the platter
2
lemons squeezed for lemonade
3
blackberries sugared for pudding
4
corn on the cob is steaming in butter 5
green beans surrounding a ham hock
6
salt and pepper and hot sauce too
7
after all it's Sunday
8
Sunday
Connotation vs. Denotation: Sunday is the
day of rest and a time for family.
By Nikki Giovanni
hot rolls in a summer basket
1
fried chicken piled on the platter
2
lemons squeezed for lemonade
3
blackberries sugared for pudding
4
corn on the cob is steaming in butter 5
green beans surrounding a ham hock
6
salt and pepper and hot sauce too
7
after all it's Sunday
8
Imagery: The speaker uses
images of hot food to entice
the senses and appeal to our
sense of taste, sight, and
smell. These images invoke
the feeling of family, in
addition to rest and
relaxation, her words flowing
with smooth ease.
Oscar Wilde- “Symphony in Yellow”
An omnibus across the bridge
Crawls like a yellow butterfly,
And, here and there, a passer-by
Shows like a little restless midge.
Big barges full of yellow hay
Are moored against the shadowy wharf,
And, like a yellow silken scarf,
The thick fog hangs along the quay.
The yellow leaves begin to fade
And flutter from the Temple elms,
And at my feet the pale green Thames
Lies like a rod of rippled jade.
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