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=MECH= Photoshopping Poetry

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9/10/2009 12:50:52   
Fleur Du Mal

Let us discuss imagery in poetry! =P

I'm very much fascinated by traditional Japanese poetry --e.g. haiku-- that are often closer to gazing at paintscrolls than listening to lyrical texts. So I wanted to ask: how do you feel about poems that concentrate on strong visual imagery? Are you familiar with haiku and what are your opinions on it?

On a more general level:
How do you embed imagery in your poetry, be it rhyming or not? Do you rather have it as a spice and sprinkle of salt or the main ingredient?

What do you think of poetry where the imagery is the driving force of a poem; i.e. the imagery is so strong it is the main focus, not the emotions or the story buried beneath it?
How do you feel describing emotions through imagery and symbols in poetry instead of flat out telling them?
For example instead of saying:
"My heart has broken in two"
the poem could go
"My insides like shattered ice "
(Yes, the example is horrible, please discuss the idea of photoshopping emotions, not my execution of giving example of the idea =P)

Have you ever read (or should I say seen =P) a poem with exceptional imagery?

EDIT: I know this topic isn't that active, but I tagged according to the new discussion tags just to test out how it'll look.

< Message edited by fabula -- 12/4/2009 15:31:20 >
DF  Post #: 1
9/10/2009 14:19:52   

I'm going to start answering questions from the bottom up. :P

I've read many poems, mostly for school critique. Some of them had exceptional imagery. (I have forgotten what they are called. I'm sure if I could find my exam past papers I could probably name them all, but I'm lazy. I'll come up with some quotes later :P) One of them compared war to the personification of Death and another compared winter to an encroaching army. They were both very good and very visual.

I have no problem with emotions described through images, especially in poetry. I don't usually describe my own emotions in poetry, but if I had to, I think I would use images. Obviously, if the images cloud the poem, then they'll have to go. It's not the first time I've seen a poem so focused on rhyme and verbose images (have you read my own poem, "the Legend of Icearth"?) that they become unreadable.
AQ DF  Post #: 2
9/11/2009 12:02:03   
Fleur Du Mal

Hmm, I might agree that if images would cloud the poem, they would have to go. However, I believe that there are poems where the imagery is the poem, so there's no fear of clouding it up with it. Here are two excerpts from Pablo Neruda's poetry, the first from Nothing but Death and the other from Ode to the Cat (both poems are somewhat long, thus only excerpts -- you can follow the links if you want to read them whole):


There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

But the cat
wants nothing more than to be a cat,
and every cat is pure cat
from its whiskers to its tail,
from sixth sense to squirming rat,
from nighttime to its golden eyes.
Nothing hangs together
quite like a cat:
neither flowers nor the moon
such consistency.
It's a thing by itself,
like the sun or a topaz,
and the elastic curve of its back,
which is both subtle and confident,
is like the curve of a sailing ship's prow.
The cat's yellow eyes
are the only
for depositing the coins of night.

To me, both poems concentrate on visualizing and describing their subjects; the first one describes death through poetry and the other one the animal known as cat. I can only make assumptions about the deeper meaning behind the visualization of death in Nothing but Death, but especially the Ode to the Cat is to me "just" a appraising, strongly visual description of the essence of cats. I enjoyed both poems because of their imagery and wished for nothing more.

Does poetry always need a so-called deeper meaning?

Pablo Neruda's poems are very different from haiku, that usually do have a philosophical thought behind them. Sometimes they, too, focus more on symbolism, though. Or so I think. =P Here's an example by Matsuo Basho:

Moonlight slanting
through the bamboo grove;
a cuckoo crying.

The images make my brains tick. The moonlight and filtering through bamboos and the cry of the cuckoo deliver such a striking feel of emptiness.

I've found that I read poetry with strong imagery a lot slower than, say, poems that are story-oriented like the Canterbury Tales. The fact that the "plot" is taken out or hidden, makes me think about each line before proceeding.

As to the question of describing emotions through imagery, I'd say for extremly strong emotions (especially if they are negative) I try to use words that would be easily visualized by the reader. Explicitly explained wrath turns easily too ranty and very ugly, imo. It's easier to approach a tempest than a scorned poet. =P

I'd be very interested in the names of those poems you refer to, Xirmi. And I am going to check out that poem of yours. =P
DF  Post #: 3
9/11/2009 14:02:51   


I've found that I read poetry with strong imagery a lot slower than, say, poems that are story-oriented like the Canterbury Tales. The fact that the "plot" is taken out or hidden, makes me think about each line before proceeding.

That's true with me as well. I plow my way through narrative poems and plod my way through all the others.


I'd be very interested in the names of those poems you refer to, Xirmi. And I am going to check out that poem of yours. =P

Good news, I've found one. Here it is:


Death the Leveler

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in dusth be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill:
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
They tame but one another still:
Early or late
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow;
Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
Upon Death's purple altar now
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb:
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

by James Shirley

The other one has vanished in the clutter left over from the last school year. I'll probably unearth it at some point or another, but for now this is the only one I've found.
AQ DF  Post #: 4
9/12/2009 12:03:48   

Poetry is all about imagery. I remember, back in the old days, Rico used to stress that a lot... [/nostalgia]

My personal opinion? Strong visuals are very important to poetry--/and/ prose. The concrete is always more powerful than the surreal. Emotions are too subtle to describe directly, so imagery is a perfect way.

How do I embed imagery? I dunno, I don't really pay attention when I write poetry. I just spew out whatever my emotion say. I remember to give examples to support my theme. That's pretty much it.

As you can tell, I support imagery. A lot. The one instance where I /don't/ support it is when it completely overrides the theme. What you are saying is always more important than how you say it. Imagery for imagery's sake often results in an incomprehensible mess that causes severe headaches and no understanding. Imagery is a tool; it is not an end.

Here's a poem I really like, for both its story and its imagery: The Cremation of Sam McGee
AQ  Post #: 5
9/15/2009 14:32:20   
Fleur Du Mal

=P I find it very descriptive that when providing examples on strong imagery in poetry, we have so far ended up posting poems on death. (Although The Cremation of Sam McGee was pretty different from Nothing but Death and Death the Leveler.) Maybe strong imagery is most important when describing things one cannot see or know inside out, such as love and death.

Now, the funny thing is that although I throughly enjoyed that Death the Leveler (thanks for looking that up, Xirmi), I'm stuck with one line. Why should Death's altar be purple? I guess this is what can happen when overloading a reader with images: if one of them doesn't work or sounds funny, then the already veiled story or meaning shall dim further underneath the confusing image.

Imo, the Cremation of Sam McGee had maybe the best balance between story, rhyme, and imagery. However, although very good, exciting, and entertaining, I personally find it far less striking imagery-wise than the other two poems. It's a poem I shall remember for its story and rhyme, not for its imagery. Nothing wrong with that. Thanks for linking, Firefly!
DF  Post #: 6
9/25/2009 6:53:11   

No idea about the purple altar, but it's possible that the poet could be attributing the color purple to death. Now, I don't know if you like the color purple, but I find it dreary and depressing.
AQ DF  Post #: 7
10/13/2009 2:41:32   

Many poems are all about the image they create in the reader's mind. Take Tennyson's well known poem The Eagle.


He clasps the crag with crooked hands.
Close to the sun in lonely lands.
Ringed with azure world he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls.
He watches from his mountain walls.
And like a thunderbolt, he falls.

Wouldn't you agree that the beauty of this poem is the image it creates? Of a majestic eagle on the edge of a cliff, with green seas crawling below and blue sky all around? Here is another example, taken from Edgar Allan Poe's (My favorite poet) Dream Within a Dream.


I stand amid the roar,
Of a surf tormented shore.
While I hold in my hand,
Grains of the golden sand.
How few, yet how the creep,
Through my fingers to the deep.

Again, Does not the image it creates define the poem?
DF MQ  Post #: 8
10/23/2009 10:49:14   

Have you ever read (or should I say seen =P) a poem with exceptional imagery?

I actually made some o.O I lost em due a new PC...
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 9
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