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English - Studying Poetry - Imagery & Aural Imagery

Imagery:

Similes

Similes compare one thing to another in order to make the description more vivid, often by using the words: 'as' or 'like', to make the comparison.

Example:

The wind cut through my face like a knife.

(The coldness of the wind is compared to the action of a knife - this emphasises the sharp, penetrating nature of the wind).

Metaphors

Metaphors also create a comparison, but are less direct and do not use ' as' or 'like'.

Often a metaphor actually describes the subject as being the thing to which it is compared.

Example:

She has a heart of gold.

(She is a kind person).

Personification

Personification is created by giving human qualities or feelings to something that is not human.

Example:

The river glideth at her own sweet will.

(This suggests that the river is a living, thinking being, who has her own will).

Note: Make sure that you identify similes, metaphors and personification, when you analyse a poem. It is more important to be able to explain the effects that the techniques create. Think about how the poet makes the description more vivid.

 

Aural Imagery:

Poets often make use of images that are created through sound.

There are three main types of aural imagery that you might identify in the poems you study:

Alliteration

Alliteration involves the repetition of the same consonant sound, usually at the beginning of each word.

Example:

'Searing Sunshine'

Note: Although alliteration is easy to spot in a poem, the main thing is to be able to describe its effects on the tone and rhythm of the poem.

 

Assonance

Assonance involves the repetition of a vowel sound to achieve a particular kind of effect.

Example:

'There must be Gods thrown down and trumpets blown'

Hyperian by John Keates from The Complete Poems of John Keates, penguin Books, 1977

(This shows the paired assonance of 'must' and 'trump' and 'thrown' and 'blown')

 

Onomatopoeia

Another kind of aural device in which the actual sounds of words reflect their meanings.

Example:

Theodore Roethke uses onomatopoeia to create a sense of the sea washing against the sea wall:

'Along the sea wall a steady sloshing of the swell'

The Storm by Theodore Roethke from Collected Poems, Faber and Faber, 1968.

The combination of the alliteration and the onomatopoeic effect of 'sloshing' gives an impression of the sound of the sea washing up against the sea wall.

Note: It is important to be able to spot these features. It is more important to be able to explain why you think a poet has used them and what effects they create in the poem and in the mind of the reader.

The main thing that you need to do when you are writing about a poet's use of imagery is to explain what effect is created within the poem.

Poetry Studies - Imagery & Aural Imagery .PDF

 

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