What are examples of images in the poem "A Blessing" by James Wright?

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wright’s poem is about the emotional connection the poet feels with the horses. The imagery of the poem works to create a singular moment in which he can feel this emotional connection. As is characteristic of Wright, the imagery dwells on the concrete and specific—the scene is “on the highway to Rochester, Minnesota”; the time of day is twilight; he has to step over the barbed wire to get to the ponies, who are grazing among some willows; the horses come to greet him, their coats “rippling with excitement.” All of these images serve to create a very specific moment in time. 

At the same time, the images also suggest that this is a fleeting, magical moment. The twilight “bounds softly” over the grass; soon it will be dark. It becomes clear that this meeting with the ponies is more than just a chance to see some animals. Their necks bow “like wet swans,” as they come to meet their visitors, and their eyes “darken with kindness.” Suddenly, the reader is confronted with the fact of the internal life of the ponies: “They love each other.” Then, a moment of empathy: “There is no loneliness like theirs.”

This moves the poet to wish to hold one of the horses in his arms. Even while the imagery reinforces what the horses are doing—“For she has walked over to me / And nuzzled my left hand”—and how they look—“She is black and white, Her mane falls wild on her forehead”—these details transcend what they are, and suggest, in these simple movements, a kind of shared knowledge and vulnerability. We feel what the horses feel.

The poem concludes with two striking images. The description of the pony’s ear as “delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist” has a kind of visceral effect, in that it combines two very specific feelings—the softness of a pony’s ear, the softness of a girl’s wrist—with a specific emotional connection, made concrete by the “light breeze,” that causes him to “caress” the pony’s ear. The pony and poet understand each other.

The final image, “That if I stepped out of my body / I would break Into blossom” suggests not only the euphoria of this experience with the ponies but also the poet’s recognition that this has been an “out of body” experience, in the sense that he has felt a deep emotional unity with the ponies and with nature.


beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Imagery in literature, especially in poetry, plays to our senses; it is what makes us see, hear, taste, feel, or smell something through words and prose. In "A Blessing” by James Wright there are a number of good examples of imagery. He creates images of the evening arriving as he says "the twilight bounds." The horses are happy as they "ripple tensely”; the narrator and his friend can feel their happiness. A beautiful image is formed when the author says, "They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other." When swans bow to each other their necks form the shape of a heart, which the author wants you to see as he describes the position of the horses. He says that they "munch the young tufts of spring in the darkness" and this gives the reader an image to determine the season and to feel the passage of time from twilight to darkness. "The light breeze has moved over me to caress her long ear that is as delicate as a young girl's wrist." This beautiful imagery describes how the wind is blowing as gentle as a kiss and likens it to one of the softest pieces of skin on a child. In addition, the final image of the narrator stepping out of his skin into a blossom paints a picture of just how happy the narrator is at that moment that he would turn into a flower because he is so delighted.