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How to improve poetic imagery

Updated on July 7, 2016


The invention of love poetry is one of the greatest and most beautiful accomplishments of man. The value of sharing an emotion such as love through poetry is unbelievable. However, the poet is a special artist. The poet can’t learn to write poetry through conventional means. Poetry can’t be taught as other arts can. Therefore, this article will help you improve the key element of any poetic work, and that is poetic imagery.

The use of poetic imagery

The basic element of any poetic work is poetic imagery. The poetic imagery is used so the poet can convey his feelings and thoughts. The essence of poetic imagery is to present the poets view of the world and being. This article will show you how to craft better poetic images, how to edit them and how to improve your style of writing.

The poetic imagery usually consists of:

  1. An object that is conveyed in poetic imagery
  2. Description that is a poetic imagery
  3. The deeper understanding of being
  4. Special usage and understanding of language

The nature is a great source of poetic imagery
The nature is a great source of poetic imagery

How to craft poetic imagery

Let’s say you want to write a love poem for your girlfriend. You have the idea, the passion, however your technique in crafting verses may be lacking. Let’s say you are really in love with your girlfriend, and for you, she is the most beautiful girl in the world. How will you describe her beauty?

For example we will use the following line.

“She is beautiful”

This is bland and unnecessary line in poetry or any poetic work. It’s shallow to write such line in poetry even more if you remember that you could use poetic imagery in your writing. To say that someone is “beautiful” is more of a shallow compliment and it could be swapped for more compelling one. However, this is still far from poetic imagery. Let’s edit this.

But, how do we edit this? First, we will take the other part of the line. The word “beautiful” could be written differently. Now, it’s time to craft a poetic imagery. The poetic imagery finds life in the way how we convey and express our thoughts through images. The images should be crafted in such manner so that they're an actual image of something, related to the object of your writing.

Inspiration is literary everywhere
Inspiration is literary everywhere

The word “beautiful” should be remade into the poetic imagery. However, the main problem is to find the source of a poetic imagery. Where does it come from? Before all else, we have to understand the word we are going to derive the poetic imagery from. What does it mean to be “beautiful”? While this philosophical question hasn’t been answered for over 2000 years, there is small chance that you will answer it. However, you can ponder on it, and find what meaning it has for you. The uniqueness of poetry is derived from the fact that every poet has to feel the being in order to write poetry. This is a special feeling, feeling of the wholeness of the being. Therefore, as being presents itself before you, some words or things will have certain meaning and value for you.

For example, we will turn the word “beautiful” into the poetic imagery. Instead of writing “beautiful”, we will write “flowering star”. Now we have:

“She is a flowering star”

This is far from perfect, but it’s better than what we previously wrote. Even though the change may not look grand, it actually is. Now, we are beginning to craft a poetic imagery. Still, we haven’t done anything with the first part of our line. We have the word “she”. Who is “she” or what is “she”? We already said that “she” is your girlfriend, but what we want ask here is how you really see her? How would you present their being, their peculiar presence in this world?

Neruda is the master of poetic imagery

Back to the line we just wrote. We will take the “flowering star” we just wrote, and instead of word “beautiful”, we will exchange it with the first part of the line. We will exchange it with the word “she”. Now we have:

“Flowering star is beautiful”

We have to turn the word “beautiful” in poetic imagery again. Then again, we just made a major progress, because the first part of the line was harder to craft. When you write about someone it’s much harder to describe them directly. It’s always harder to use poetic imagery to describe a person or an object, rather than to use poetic imagery as a description for a person or an object. The “flowering star” gives us insight in the nature of the person, however, we will get to know her better if we describe her more. How the person will be described depends on the one who writes and the one who is written about. There are no rules here, you should just write as much as you can for the best results. There is a little secret though. The poetic imagery should convey something related to the person only, but that quality should be also found in all things at the same time. It should be something general, that encompass the being as a whole.

Poetry is taught only through writing. As you write, it will become easier to understand the advices given in this article.

Let’s edit the poetic imagery further. We have a “flowering star”, but the question is what imagery can bring a star’s beauty to light? We have to add depth to the poetic imagery. To seek the source of the word and find what’s most suitable to convey the emotion and the thought. Only then, we have crafted poetic imagery. We’ll go with:

“Flowering star is the bright princess of heavenly garden”

Our star has a special role now. She has an exalted position. Now we have a concrete poetic imagery at work. Here, the real trouble starts. We have to edit this once again.

“Flowering star you are the bright princess of heavenly garden”

Now, we everything is more personal. We are taking the star, and making our relationship with her as poets intimate. We are adressing it. From this intimacy the poetry is born. Let’s tweak it a little bit more.

“Flowering star, you are the princess of brightness in heavenly garden”

We have crafted the poetic imagery. What’s left is to write the whole poem in this manner. All that is left is to write some final tips for the betterment of your work.

Final tips

Write constantly
Ponder on your words
Use words trivially
Take time to edit the verse
Leave everything as first draft
Review the poem
Lack patience for writing
These are the poetry writing fundamentals
Finding a muse can be of great help
Finding a muse can be of great help

Final tips

When writing poetic imagery, the poet should always stick with those objects he is most passionate about. If you write about something you love, then inspiration will never be a problem. What makes love poetry so fun to write is the fact that you are always in state of great inspiration. After all, you are probably going to write about someone you love.

Also, it’s very important to write regularly. The more you write the better you will get. Other than the actual writing, the great importance should be put on the understanding of words. If you want a better poetic imagery, than you have to have a deep understanding of the words that you are using.

In a strict sense, each poet should develop his own language. The poetic language contains certain words that through time become poetic imagery. If you read the greats of poetry, you can examine and find the words they deemed special. This takes time, patience, pondering and work. But if you do all of the above and follow the advice in the article, you should be on the right path.

In the thought, feeling and act is the life of poetry. Strive hard to achieve that. Good luck.

I would like to hear other thoughts and comments on poetic imagery. Feel free to leave the comments below and share your opinion on how you can craft better poetic imagery!


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    • Bede le Venerable profile image

      Bede 4 months ago from Minnesota

      Thank you for the good thoughts, or rather... thank you for the thoughts that shimmer like diamonds on a morning lake. How's that? I took one creative writing class, and the advice that the professor repeated a thousand times over was "show, don't tell", which is essentially the same thing you've described.