What is the purpose of imagery in poetry? What is the purpose of imagery in odes, elegies, haikus, sonnets and lyrics? Thanks

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coachingcorner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The purpose of imagery in poetry is to help get the poet's message across in language that is strong, vivid and very visual. The poet will use words to create images in our heads that help us to interpret the poem in the way he sees it. Every person has a different view on life and poets are inspired to record theirs for others to read and identify with. Sometimes, such as in "Vampire" by Ted Hughes, the images will be gruesome - as in a party host with  a slack mouth like a gaping sack. Sometimes, such as in Shakespeare (Sonnet 18) the images are delicate and beautiful as in "shall I compare thee to a summer's day." Sometimes poets use similes in comparison, sometimes they use personification and sometimes metaphor. All create visuals for us, whether to shock or delight.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There will be many different approaches to answering this question.  I would say that one of the primary purposes of imagery in poetry is to help create mental pictures through words that help illuminate the poet's effectiveness.  Imagery helps to create a series of visualizations of one's mind while they are reading.  This helps to capture the essence of meaning in writing and catapult the relevancy of the author.  For example, in Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem," he uses imagery or mental pictures to help bring out the answers to his question, "What happens to a dream deferred?"  Images like the raisin drying up in the sun or crusting over "a syrupy sweet" or festering "like a sore," are all examples of pictures created through words that enhance meaning in the poem.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are numerous answers to your question about the purpose of imagery in poetry.  I'll mention one that is particularly relevant to poetry, as opposed to prose.

There probably is no accurate definition (in our current literary climate) of poetry, that covers everything that today is considered poetry.  For instance, what we accept today as prose poetry doesn't fit any standard definitions from the past of what poetry is.  If there is a single characteristic that at least fits most of what is...

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