Poetic Imagery: Little Snapshots in the Mind
As we have seen before in modern and post-modern poetry, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the style of poetry you choose to write, You can write anything from the highly regimented Shakespearean sonnet with it’s hard and set rules of meter and rhyme to Whitman’s free verse without a set meter or rhyme scheme that just flows in the natural rhythms of the poets own mind and still call it poetry. However, imagery is a different matter, and we are hard pressed to call a written expression a poem if it is devoid of imagery.
Without imagery all you really have is a piece of prose organized to look like a poem because it is simply written in columns or verse form, so don’t let looks deceive you. It’s the imagery of a poem that helps the reader to experience the essence of the subject of your sentence or poem. It’s basically the sounds, scents, textures and visuals that both the poet and the reader experience in their heads when experiencing your poem, the mind pictures if you will.
For the intents of this essay, we are going to examine this common types of imagery: simile, metaphor,
and allegory. When you use a simile, you compare apples and oranges, if you will, as they are both perfect spheres. You can say for instance that “She walks in beauty like the night,” or “:She walks in beauty as the night,” and the reader will immediately make a connection between “Her” the subject of your sentence or your poem and the night in your mind’s eye. You may even be able to see a beautiful woman walking outside on a starlit night in your mind’s eye. But then an even stronger connection can be made using a metaphor to say, “She is the beauty of the night.” So, the basic difference between a simile and a metaphor is the use of the word’s “like” or “as” in a simile or the word “is” in a metaphor, thereby you can control the very subtle shades of meaning in your poem.
Allegory on the other hand, is a literary device that gives human traits to animals, ideas or inanimate objects in a narrative that teaches the reader a life lesson such as we would see in a myth. C. S. Lewis, for example, was probably America’s greatest allegorical writer with his fantasy writings of of “The Chronicles of Narnia” in which animals, mythical creatures, and inanimate objects such as “The Lion. The Witch, and the Wardrobe” talk and transport us to worlds unknown. Another good example of a modern allegory is the story of “The Lion King” in which all the animals talk and are oh so human.
But, although these various types of literary devices discussed here are what basically make a poem a poem, they can also be found in prose writing such as the in the highly descriptive purple prose of fiction and creative non-fiction. However this kind of rich imagery is highly discouraged in journalistic writing that depends solely on the facts and interesting little details of a story.