About Poetry
Poetry • Outline • Explication

Theme • Plot • Style
Character • Setting • Voice
Writer • Writer's block

Poetic diction

Imagery • Figures of speech
Metaphor • Simile
Homeric simile
Personification • Pathetic fallacy
Synecdoche  • Metonymy
Conceit • Extended metaphor
Allegory • Motif • Symbol
Pun • Double entendre
Ambiguity • Idiom


Alliteration • Assonance
Consonance • Rhyme
Repetition • Refrain


Line • Enjambment • Caesura
Foot • Meter • Verse • Stanza

Verse forms

Epic • Narrative • Lyric • Ode
Dramatic monologue • Ballad
Blank verse • Heroic couplets
Sestina • Sonnet • Villanelle
List of poetic forms

Modern poetry

Free verse • Prose poetry
Haiku in English • Tanka

Much, much more ...

Collaborative poetry
Glossary of poetry terms
How to - topics


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Imagery, in literature, refers to the descriptive language and figures of speech of a story or poem that allow the reader to imagine its details.


Imagery, n.
  1. The work of one who makes images or visible representation of objects; imitation work; images in general, or in mass. "Painted imagery." Shakespeare. "In those oratories might you see. / Rich carvings, portraitures, and imagery." Dryden.
  2. (Figurative): Unreal show; imitation; appearance. "What can thy imagery of sorrow mean?" Prior.
  3. The work of the imagination or fancy; false ideas; imaginary phantasms. "The imagery of a melancholic fancy." Atterbury.
  4. Rhetorical decoration in writing or speaking; vivid descriptions presenting or suggesting images of sensible objects; figures in discourse. "I wish there may be in this poem any instance of good imagery." Dryden.[1]

Imagery and imaginationEdit

To imagine, say, a rattlesnake, or a skunk, is to have what is called a mental image (or sometimes a mental picture of the thing in one's mind. Unlike a physical picture, though, the details of a mental image can be more than visual. For instance, my imaginary rattlesnake includes the sound of its rattle, while my imaginary skunk includes a skunk's scent. What all the details of any imaginary thing have in common, though, is that they are sensory: they appeal to one of the senses. Just as we can experience something only through our brains via our five senses, we can imagine something only by stimulation of the same sensory equipment.

The imagery or images of a poem or a story, then, are the words in it that create mental images through language that describes or conveys sensory details. Imagery is useful as it allows a reader to imagine the details of the story or poem while reading it, and thereby gets him or her involved in it.

Forms of imagery (with examples)Edit

Visual imageryEdit

As the above 'picture' analogy implies, mental images are mainly visual, just as visual perception is the most used one. Many if not most concrete nouns are visual images - ball, book, box, all call up mental images with definite looks. So are colour words. So are shape words. So are many verbs - since they correspond to actions one sees. The bulk of imagery in a poem or story will normally be visual, just as the bulk of one's own real-life perceptions and imaginations will be visual.

  • The crimson liquid spilled from the neck of the white dove, staining and matting its pure, white feathers.

Here the colour words 'crimson' and 'white', the concrete nouns 'dove' and 'feathers', and the verbs 'spilled', 'staining', and 'matting,' all appeal to the visual sense.

Kinetic imagery represents movement, as in Wordsworth's poem Daffodils: "tossing their heads in sprightly dance". However, that is also an appeal to the visual sense.

Other formsEdit

Auditory imagery appeals to the sense of sound.

  • The bells chimed 2 o'clock and Daniel got ready for school.
  • Onomatopoeia: a word that makes a sound.

Olfactory imagery represents a smell.

  • Gio's socks, still soaked with sweat from Tuesday's P.E. class, filled the classroom with an aroma akin to that of salty, week-old, rotting fish.

Gustatory imagery represents a taste.

  • The sweet marinara sauce makes up for the bland sea-shell pasta that Jeffrey served.
  • Tumbling through the ocean water after being overtaken by the monstrous wave, Mark unintentionally took a gulp of the briny, bitter liquid, causing him to cough and gag.

Tactile imagery represents touch.

  • Yalimar dug her feet into the wet sand, burying her toes inside the beach as cold waves lapped at her ankles.
  • The clay oozed between Jeremy's fingers as he let out a squeal of pure glee.


Abstract things and ideas are not sensed, but thought. Sensory perception, and imagistic language, has to do with concrete things. Neither are emotions sensed.

Metaphors and similesEdit

Main article: Metaphor

Metaphors and similes are uses of imagery, in that they use concrete and tangible things, to represent less tangible ideas or moods.

A simile is a literary device where the writer employs the words "like" or "as" to describe one thing by comparing it to another compare one thing (the groundtwo different ideas.

  • My heart is heavy as a millstone.
  • Yesenia and her boyfriend soared high like two doves in love.
  • I am as tricky as a fox.
  • Angel's heart, like a candy store, has a hundred variations of sweetness.
  • Tailaya's eyes sparkle like a crystal ball.
  • Selena's hair is like a stormy sea.
  • Dorian is acting like a clown.
  • I am as red as a tomato when my kids fail their quiz and don't study!

A metaphor is similar to a simile, however this literary device makes a comparison without the use of "like" or "as". That can be even more dramatic:

  • This millstone of my heart.
  • Mister S's classes are intricate ice sculptures in summer.
  • Big Daddy's face is a garden.
  • Paola's eyes were endless pools of beauty.
  • Dasean's voice was an explosion of sound.
  • Wordsworth's poem Daffodils: "tossing their heads in sprightly dance".


  1. "Imagery," Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)., Web, Feb. 18, 2013.

External linksEdit

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