What are several examples of each of the following poetry terms:
- figurative imagery (imagery that uses comparison and connections: metaphor, personification and simile)
- literal imagery (imagery that engages the senses, does not use comparison)
- clichéd imagery.
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Understanding the terminology in any given field is important, and it is essential in poetry because terminology can impact meaning. The terms you have listed are all important to know when studying poetry, and most of them can be found in the eNotes "Guide to Literary Terms," linked below.
- Alliteration is the repetition of initial (beginning) sound in a line of poetry, and it is almost always a consonant because that works to greater effect than a vowel sound. A rather silly example of this is the familiar little nursery rhyme: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. This is a bit of an exaggeration (which is why it is somewhat silly), and alliteration in more substantial poetry is generally confined to two or three alliterative words.
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea. --from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
...sick soul to happy sleep... --from "The Witch of Atlas" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
- Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in two or more words in a line of poetry. Remember that it is the sound that is important, not the letters, so assonance is easiest to identify when a poem is read aloud. (Consider "teeny, weeny bikini" which gets the long "e" sound from an "i.")
Strips of tinfoil winking like people... --from "The Bee Meeting" by Sylvia Plath
Hear the mellow wedding bells... --from "The Bells" by Edgar Allen Poe
- Metaphor is an implied comparison between two usually unlike things, such as calling a very hot room a furnace.
...all honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy. [comparing honor and wealth to false things: mimic and alchemy] --from "The Sun Rising" by John Donne
- Simile is almost the same as a metaphor, but the comparison is overtly stated (not implied), generally using "like" or "as." The very hot room is like a furnace. Langston Hughes's "A Dream Deferred" is a series of similes:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
- Personification is giving human qualities or characteristics to something that is not human or not living.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening... --from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot
- Literary imagery uses the senses to create an impression. Poets use the senses to help readers feel as if they are experiencing whatever is being described in the poem. Each of the senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound) is represented in this excerpt from "The Shark" by Edwin John Pratt:
And as he passed the wharf
And snapped at a flat-fish
That was dead and floating.
And I saw the flash of a white throat,
And a double row of white teeth,
And eyes of metallic grey,
Hard and narrow and slit.
- Clichéd imagery is something you hope you do not see in any work of poetry which makes a claim to being a serious literary work. Clichés are trite and overused but familiar. Of course they are familiar to us because they are so overused that they lose any serious meaning. Some common clichés include dead as a doornail (simile), so hungry I could eat a horse (hyperbole), red as a beet (simile) and this is killing me (personification).
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