When writing descriptive poetry it becomes increasingly necessary to review exactly what imagery is and its innate relevance to poetry as an art form.
Imagery Is Description
Have you ever been in a situation where an instructor mentioned the catch phrase, “Be as descriptive as possible?” In short, imagery can best be defined as descriptive language.
If you take that definition one step further and apply it to the human senses, then the definition becomes descriptive language that has the ability of appealing to the five senses. Although, that does not necessarily mean that imagery applies to all five senses collectively.
Most often used in poetry, imagery can be used in just about any form of writing. Whether fiction or nonfiction, imagery is what provides the color, or what a reader can see in his or her mind’s eye about a particular written work. Contemporary examples of imagery in action include stories in the newspaper, crime scene reports and of course, works of fiction.
Imagery is also used in songs, movies, television shows and everyday reports. It is the way in which the writer or author of a particular work conveys texture and vividness to the reader. It is also the way in which the writer shows the reader the intended image of the work, instead of telling them.
Imagery Surrounds You
If you are a fan of music, then imagery surrounds you in songs. Many people agree that songs are but poetry set to music.
If you consider this statement to be true, then it could be said that the verses in your favorite song (that may be stuck in your head) are a good place to start when you are looking for samples of imagery in everyday works. Whether you like hip-hop, pop, rock and roll, country or soul, music is as good a place as ever to find good samples of imagery.
Take a look at the following example and see if you can better understand its use of imagery:
On a starry winter night in Portugal
Where the ocean kissed the southern shore
There a dream I never thought would come to pass
Came and went like time spent through an hourglass
-Teena Marie, “Portuguese Love”
The sample above was taken from soul songstress of the 1980s, Teena Marie’s hit love song. Did you notice how descriptive the lyrics are? In this sample alone, the imagery is increasingly apparent to the reader. Even though this is a portion of the lyrics from a song, if you read it, you can almost feel the sand of the beach beneath your feet.
Here is another example of imagery in music:
She wears a long fur coat of mink
Even in the summertime
Everybody knows from the coy little wink
The girl's got a lot on her mind
She's got big thoughts, big dreams
And a big brown Mercedes sedan
What I think this girl, she really wants
Is to be in love with a man-Sheila E., “Glamorous Life”
In this illustration, the imagery gains momentum with each line. It starts out slow, yet always building momentum through its vivid description of the mystery girl in the “long fur coat of mink.”
Now consider a famous poem that contains beautiful imagery, "Daffodils" by William Wordsworth. As you read through the poem, he paints a wonderful picture of daffodils such that you can almost picture them in the breeze:
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way
Imagery in a Single Sentence
While poems and songs can paint a vivid picture since they are longer mediums, imagery can be found in just a single sentence as well. Consider the following descriptive sentences:
- He fumed and charged like an angry bull.
- He fell down like an old tree falling down in a storm.
- He felt like the flowers were waving him a hello.
- The eerie silence was shattered by her scream.
- He could hear his world crashing down when he heard the news about her.
- The F-16 swooped down like an eagle after its prey.
- The word spread like leaves in a storm.
- The lake was left shivering by the touch of morning wind.
- Her face blossomed when she caught a glance of him.
- He could never escape from the iron grip of desire.
- He could hear the footsteps of doom nearing.
- She was like a breath of fresh air infusing life back into him.
- The pot was a red as a tongue after eating a cherry flavored ring pop.
- Though I was on the sheer face of a mountain, the feeling of swinging through the air was euphoric, almost like flying without wings.
- Her blue eyes were as bright as the Sun, blue as the sky, but soft as silk.
- The music coursed through us, shaking our bodies as if it came from within us.
- The giant tree was ablaze with the orange, red, and yellow leaves that were beginning to make their descent to the ground.
Paint a Picture
If you ever find yourself wondering where you can find good imagery examples, you can turn on some music or pull out a book or magazine, and you will find many examples.
Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.comments powered by
Examples of Imagery
By YourDictionaryWhen writing descriptive poetry it becomes increasingly necessary to review exactly what imagery is and its innate relevance to poetry as an art form.
Fourth grade students at my school are beginning a unit on writing poetry this week. Their last unit was an expository essay unit, so they really have to switch gears to match the new genre. To prepare her students for this new kind of writing, Mrs. Hales led them through some writing exercises involving their feelings.
Every Kind of Feeling
Mrs. Hales began this exercise by giving her students the following list of feeling words. (This list was created by the Children’s Center at the University of California — Santa Barbara and can be found here.)
I especially love the categories this list provides. At the top of each column are general, basic feeling words (and the ones most commonly used in student writing). Below each of those are more specific versions of those feelings.
Students were invited to highlight the feelings that they had previously experienced, or those feelings with which they felt a strong connection. They then put this list in their writer’s notebook for reference. A few students showed me where they had jotted down times they felt disappointed or lonely so they could remember the details of the experience.
Using Senses to Describe Feelings
During the mini-lesson the next day, students were reminded that writers sometimes use sensory language (or each of their senses) to describe something. Mrs. Hales had the students choose one of their highlighted words from the feelings list, and they spent time thinking about that feeling through each sense. They created a flipbook (pictured below) with one flap for each of their senses. Students then spent their independent writing time thinking about how the chosen feeling might smell, taste, look, hear, or feel. Most of them used comparisons to things they already knew, like “plain white rice” as the taste of loneliness.
Student Responses to This Activity
I talked to several students about their experience with this activity, and I absolutely loved their responses. I promised I would include their smart thinking in my post.
Me: That’s a pretty long list of feeling words — what made you choose this word?
Student #1 (lonely): Well, I knew we were about to write poetry. I’ve written poetry before, so I know that my best poems usually come from my miserable side.
Student #2 (heartbreak): We were supposed to pick an emotion that we have experienced. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak, but I see a lot of heartbreak in people around me, so I know a lot about it and it really stuck out to me.
Me: How do you think this activity will help you as a writer?
Student #1: Well, I never thought about describing my feelings like this before. I can paint a good picture with descriptions like this that use my senses.
Student #2: I don’t think I’ll use these exact sentences when I write about heartbreak because that probably wouldn’t flow very well. It will definitely be a good resource though, so I’ll be sure to look back at it when I want to include this feeling in my poems.
I can’t wait to see the poems produced in this unit. If this pre-writing activity is any indication, I will certainly be blown away by what I read! What pre-writing activities have you tried? Let me know in the comments!