Word Count: 1,004
November 8, 2002
Poetry speaks to the reader through condensed language. In most cases there is very little room to portray an image, so special forms of imagery must be utilized to properly get the message across. Many of the poems performed in class used literary imagery to give a clear idea and message to the audience in a very short amount of time. There are many sects of literary imagery to put to use. Simile makes a comparison between to unlike things, but in an indirect fashion using "like" or "as". Metaphor is another offshoot of literary imagery that makes a direct comparison between two unlike things. Finally, personification will be discussed, where nonhuman characters are given human characteristics. As simile is the least direct form of literary imagery it will be discussed first.
The first of three forms of comparison in this discussion is simile. It is a very common tool to use in poetry, and it was certainly not left out in the class's Poetry Performances. "My Grandfather's Necktie" by Jeffery Harrison used simile to better describe the brilliant and odd colors of the beloved article of clothing. The dominant image used is seen in the line, "like a tropical snake". This easily and quickly paints a picture of brilliant and contrasting colors for a better overall idea of what's being portrayed in the poem. D.H Lawrence wrote about an actual snake in his poem. The subject is compared to numerous respected ideas, in lines "like a god" and "like a guest". These valued ideas give the reader the sense that the snake is welcomed, and not despised as it usually is in literature. In "Just to Dance" by Emily Dickinson she talks about how it feels to just let go of Earth's bounds and dance. Within the poem she describes this unearthly feeling as being "like an angel".
"Lucifer's Betrayal" by Suzanne Anonymous offers a very different imagery, but still uses simile to illustrate the picture. In a very sensory line, the reader can hear and see "glass falling softly, like gentle rain". There were even more examples, such as "Kind of a marriage" and "kind of a war" are two lines in Anne Saxton's poem "The Addict". These two distinct comparisons describe the unbreakable bond and the never-ending battle that goes on and on within the body and mind of a drug addict. In two poems about battle, "The Triumph of Death" by M.A.T. Blacthorne and "Hurrah for the Light Artillery", more similes are used. In the first poem the speaker describes how "sweat flowed from me like blood". "Hurrah for the Light Artillery" compares the men of the army moving scenery in lines like: "the infantry swayed like the coming sea" and "hundred's of men fall like grain on the lee". These comparisons through simile, though meaningful and full of imagery, are not as direct and powerful as comparison through metaphor.
With metaphor, the author takes more of a chance in making a direct comparison between two unlike things. If this succeeds the pay off is much higher, in the form of a very powerful and descriptive line. One of the first and biggest examples of metaphor in the class performances was in the poem by Anne Saxton, "The Love Plant". Throughout the whole piece, the child growing inside her is compared to a plant or flower, which is slowly choking her to death. This direct comparison offers a clear idea of not only what pregnancy can be like, but also how the persona feels toward this condition. In her other poem performed in class, "The Addict", there is still more metaphor used. She compares the downward spiral of a drug trip to a "pint sized journey". With this metaphor it provides a cognitive map for where the poem is going and how it is set up. The reader knows that the persona will travel through many states of mind and emotion before she gets to her final goal. Other poems exhibited metaphor as well, including Jessie Redmon Fauset's Enigma. Here the persona, tangled up in emotions for her love, states that "your presence is a torture to the brain". Often this is how a deep and involved love can be, and the burning torture is a perfect partner for comparison. There is another form of comparison that should be mentioned when speaking of literary imagery, personification.
Personification, while giving human characteristics to non-human forms, provides another platform for delivering fantastic imagery in fewer lines. In "Lucifer's Betrayal" the "darkness found you" is a line that gives life to the strange and ambiguous idea of darkness. The poem "Snake" gives the very friendly human nature to its subject. The snake is "drunken", "seeking hospitality" and reaches down to the watering hole. Death "takes my hand and leads me" in the poem "I Have a Rendezvous with Death", further illustrating the idea that death is a powerful figure that controls us. There is also the "silent, unstoppable march of death" in "The Triumph of Death", that continues this characterization of the grim reaper. Another line from this poem gives a clearer meaning to the abstract ideas of the personal will and mind. "My will said 'yes', but my mind said 'no'" shows what control these strange concepts have over us in stressful situations such as battle. Whichever form of literary imagery a poet uses, they all help to get a message across in fewer lines.
hree forms of literary imagery are found consistently throughout poetry. These three, simile, metaphor and personification serve an important function. Through comparison, whether direct or indirect, this literary imagery paints a clear picture for the author and the reader. This helps to get the most information across in the fewest amount of lines. Poetry can then be seen as a rich and deep medium for expressing emotion and thought. In any form of literary imagery, words are given abstract meaning so they can carry more for every syllable than words in other forms of writing.