by: Christine Abriza

           Most figures of speech cast up a picture in your mind. These pictures created or suggested by the poet are called 'images'. To participate fully in the world of poem, we must  understand how the poet uses image to convey more than what is actually said or literally meant. 

          We speak of the pictures evoked in a poem as 'imagery'. Imagery refers to the "pictures" which we perceive with our mind's eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and through which we experience the "duplicate world" created by poetic language. Imagery evokes the meaning and truth of human experiences not in abstract terms, as in philosophy, but in more perceptible and tangible forms. This is a device by which the poet makes his meaning strong, clear and sure.  The poet uses sound words and words of color and touch in addition to figures of speech.  As well, concrete details that appeal to the reader's senses are used to build up images. 

          Although most of the image-making words in any language appeal to sight (visual images), there are also images of touch (tactile), sound (auditory), taste (gustatory), and smell (olfactory). The last two terms in parentheses are mainly used by lovers of jargon.  An image may also appeal to the reader's sense of motion: a verb like spring does so. 
          A good poet does not use imagery -- that is, images in general -- merely to decorate a poem. He does not ask himself, "How can I dress up my subject so that it will seem fancier than it is?" Rather, he asks himself, "How can I make my subject appear to the reader exactly as it appears to me?" Imagery helps him solve his problem, for it enables him to present his subject as it is: as it looks, smells, tastes, feels and sounds. To the reader imagery is equally important: it provides his imagination with something palpable to seize upon.  

TYPES OF IMAGES (according to the source of visual images) 

1. SIMPLE DESCRIPTION - a  large   number  of  images  which  arise  in a poem come from simple description of visible objects or actions. 


2.1 DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE - as soon as the reader becomes aware that the poem is a dramatic monologue, he visualizes a speaker with the result that the particularity of the situation is evident. 
2.2 DIALOGUE - has the same effect as dramatic monologue. 

3. STORY - like description, narration causes the reader or hearer to form images.  When the reader realizes that she is being told a tale she visualizes from habit; she does not wish to miss the point of the story. 

4. METONYMY - when a poet uses metonymy, he names one thing when he really  
means another thing with which the first is closely connected. e.g. Seven little foreheads stared up at me from the first row. (where "foreheads" is used for "eyes" ). 

5. SYNECDOCHE - when a poet uses synecdoche, he names a part of a thing when he means whole thing  (or vice versa) or the genius for the species. 

6. ONOMATOPOEIA - although imagery usually refers to visual images, there are also aural images.  The use of words which sound like their meaning is called onomatopoeia. e.g. buzz, hiss, clang , splash, murmur, chatter, etc. 

7. ADJECTIVES - in general, look for adjectives (ie. words that describe nouns).

           As Sir Philip Sidney said: "Imaging is itself the very height and life of poetry." It must be so, form the very nature of poetic vision, which always embodies itself in the form of symbols. The personality of the poet, which is the well-spring of his poetry will be a world created from all that he has known and felt and seen and heard and thought. His image-making poetic faculty and his imagination will blend together his memories and his immediate perceptions into a thousand of varieties of shapes and associations of living loveliness and power. However apparently direct and unadorned the poet makes his verses, he will employ images. However simple his statement he cannot make it abstract.  How imagery comes to the poet, how it is carried alive into the heart by passion is too mysterious a process to analyze. It brings us back at once to the problem of creation in general. Under the influence of the creative ferment, the consciousness of the poet seizes association and poetry is the union of the mental and emotional excitement of the experience with imagery which leaps to meet it, and which must be already in the memory of the poet. 



Clare, M. T., S.C. (1960) A Book of Poetry. New York: Macmillan Co. 
Del Tufo, J. P. (1965) What is Poetry?. Publication Office:Ateneo de Manila University. 
Drew, E. H. (1933) Discovering Poetry. New York:W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. 
Bautista, Cirilo F. (1985) DLSU Research Center: De La Salle University Manila  
Seng, P.J. and Main, C.F. (1996) Poems: Wadsworth Handbook and Anthology. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company Inc.