how does the author use imagery in the poem "To A Sad Daughter" by Michael Ondaatje?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As the representation of sensory experience through language, imagery certainly enhances the experience of the reader when this is present in a poem. while poetry essentially appeals to the senses with its musicality and rhythms, it also indirectly appeals to a cluster of sense impressions through the use of imagery. The most prevalent type of imagery is visual; however, there are also, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, organic, and kinesthetic imagery. In Michael Ondaatje's poem "To A Sad Daughter," there are several instances of visual, auditory, and tactile imagery:

  • Stanza 1

"hockey pictures," "gaze down," [his daughter is] "in your tracksuit," and "cuts and wounds" --all are visual imagery

  • Stanza 2

"purple woods," "black and white movies," Creature from the Black Lagoon--visual imagery; "under a quilt"--tactile imagery 

  • Stanza 3

"siren" --aural imagery

  • Stanza 4

"angry goalies with webbed feet" "caves and castles" "glass laboratories"--all are visual imagery

  • Stanza 5

"dark"--visual imagery

  • Stanza 6

"my purple world"--visual imagery used to express feelings

  • Stanza 7

"stepped"--aural imagery; "sitting," "sun spilled over you," "thick yellow miracle"--all are visual imagery

  • Stanza 8

"look at the forsythia," "sell my arms...hold your secrets"--visual imagery; "step delicately," "break," "speak,""wild world"--auditory imagery 

  • Stanza 9

"blood,""frightening mask"--visual imagery; "yellow suburban annuciation"--visual and auditory imagery; "frightening"--kinesthetic imagery; "dream of gentleness"--tactile imagery

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