writer’s block: Imagery

Poetry Potion | July 4th, 2013 | Writer's Block, writing craft | No Comments

imagery (noun): visually descriptive or figurative language, esp. in a literary work.


Imagery is using vivid and descriptive language in order to elevate the work. When used properly, it can transport the reader or listener into the poem and make the poem come alive. Imagery can make the experience become immediate.

For example:

Come outside and smell
the desolate red dusk of blazing eternity.
The endless humidity of clammy liquid air
filling the vessel known only as sky.
Cape of No-Hope by Chad Brevis (On Being Human, Poetry Potion no. 1)

Because poetry isn’t just an nice arrangement of words, the various tools we have at our disposal help us to create beauty or communicate anger, violence, ugliness, elation… a vast array of emotions. Imagery is like the paint and the canvas; it let’s you paint a picture for the reader or listener to grab on to and find meaning.

Consider this:

Leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly struck at my knee and missed.
Bereft by Robert Frost

Imagery isn’t just visual. It relates to your five senses: your sense of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Imagery used with the other figures of speech – alliteration, rhyme, metaphor etc – arouses your senses, transport you into the poem and the work comes alive. This is when poetry is at its most potent. Depending on the poet’s intention, you could be unwrapped, undone, angered, aroused, provoked. Moved.

When reading a poem think about the tastes, smells, visuals, textures, sounds that the poet is trying to invoke. Think about what meaning they could bring to the reader or listener.

When writing a poem think about what impression you’d like to leave the reader or listener with and then find the words that help you to move your reader or listener closer to where you were, emotionally, when you wrote that poem.

Poetry Potion 2013.02 Every Generation

Every Generation is the theme of the second print quarterly of Poetry Potion. Inspired by Frantz Fanon’s “Each generation, must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it.”; this edition features poetry, reviews, a poet profile of Mphutlane wa Bofelo and a q&a about the new Praat Poetry Festival.

published in print quarterly number two Every Generation

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