2016 Fundraiser: We depend on donations from our community to create a safe place for poetry online. This is the one time of year we ask, so thank you for considering a small donation to support our great work. Learn more about our story

What is Imagery?

Imagery is the process of using vivid, descriptive words to give the reader a detailed picture of what is going on in your writing so that they can easily picture, or visualize, it in their own mind.

You're a wizard. Know why? Because when you use imagery in your poems you have the power to make someone use ALL FIVE of their senses-- just by reading your words. Now that's magic.

 

What’s the first word you think of when you hear “imagery?” If you think of “image” or “picture” then you’re on the right track. Imagery is the process of using vivid, descriptive words to give the reader a detailed picture of what is going on in your writing so that they can easily picture, or visualize, it in their own mind. The purpose of imagery is to make a piece of writing really pop off the page so that the reader feels as if they are actually experiencing the whole story along with the author. The key to creating strong imagery is by using a ton of realistic detail that is easy for the reader to imagine. For example, the sentence “I took a trip to the mountains” doesn’t have much imagery. However, the sentence,“I took a trip to a distant, unpopulated land, where the tips of mountains sailed high above the clouds and the cool wind tickled my cheeks while I walked along the rugged ground” is chock full of imagery and can really resonate with the reader! Imagery is also super cool because lots of other literary devices that you’ve already mastered can fit inside it, like simile, metaphor, allusion, and hyperbole! Each of these literary devices helps strengthen the imagery by painting a clear picture in the reader’s mind. But wait, there’s more! By using imagery just right, you can reach all of the reader’s five senses. Yup, your words have the power to create scenes that spark sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. You can use adjectives, or “describing words” to expand on a single word or a whole idea and make them seem more realistic. A few extra long words go a long way.

 

How well do these poems create pictures and make use of your five senses?

Aunt Helen

BY T.S. ELIOT

Miss Helen Slingsby was my maiden aunt,   

And lived in a small house near a fashionable square   

Cared for by servants to the number of four.   

Now when she died there was silence in heaven   

And silence at her end of the street.

The shutters were drawn and the undertaker wiped his feet—   

He was aware that this sort of thing had occurred before.   

The dogs were handsomely provided for,   

But shortly afterwards the parrot died too.   

The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece,

And the footman sat upon the dining-table   

Holding the second housemaid on his knees—   

Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived.

Wonder Cabinet

BY TINA CHANG

I opened the silver pronged evening and translated
the great song of the Industrial Age. Each night
I hoped it would tell a different ending. Each time
it sang a song, sadder than I would have imagined.

I heard it, not only when I put all my perspectives
away on shelves, until the shelves caved in.
What was left: a room with windows that looked out
and I interpreted the vast room that spoke of longing,

but mostly air. I consoled myself, heavy lidded,
I revealed myself to no one. I ached by the staircase.
I opened the cupboards and the refrigerator to let the cold in.
I walked with my bare feet dragging my lone body,

cold as milk as I kissed the bottomless depth, an ear
tuned toward the series of bells, wind tied to a tree.
And then the wind stopped. If I break
the many windows will the sea roil and foam?

I am consumed with houses and what may propagate
inside them. What longing lives there, breeds
redemption? An open door to the wide plain is not a metaphor.
I swing it open each day. I leave the old house.

Poetry Term: