Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fireblossom Friday : Poetic Imagery

Hello slippery pond folk. Fireblossom here, splashing around, trying to catch a few of you and plop you in my special Poetry Bucket. Today I'd like to talk about poetic imagery. 

There are a lot of things that go into the construction of a good poem. The sheer beauty of the words and the way the sound when written skillfully, the energy behind those words, the message they carry, and the form of the poem--all these are important. But my text today, my dear amphibious flock, is poetic imagery.

I see a lot of "poems" that aren't really poems. What follows is the sort of non-poem I am talking about:

I wanted to sleep five
minutes
more, so I hit the 
snooze button and rolled
over.

Simply breaking an ordinary sentence up into little lines does not make it poetry. It just means your "enter" key has a nervous disorder.

You may give me the squinty eye and argue that you write free verse, or remind me that there is such a thing as prose poetry. (I know, I write it fairly often!) However, writing free verse without any poetic imagery is a little like entering the Texas Chili Cook-Off without bringing any spices. You could do it, and call it chili, but it wouldn't be. So, pardners, let's take a look at some poetic imagery in the hands of masters. 

The following is quoted from "Ballad Of The Black Sorrow" by Federico Garcia Lorca:

The pick-axes of roosters
dig, searching for dawn,
when down the dark hill
comes Soledad Montoya.
Yellow copper, her flesh
smells of horse and shade.
Smoked anvils, her breasts
moan round songs.

"The pick-axes of roosters dig, searching for dawn" beats the living snot out of "It was 5 a.m." don't you think? So, one thing about poetic imagery is its originality--the use of unexpected words and phrases to describe something. Another is Lorca's fantastic LSD trip out of the ordinary world. As the Acid Queen in "Tommy" advised, "Your mind must learn to roam." Don't write "she is voluptuous" when you could write "Smoked anvils, her breasts moan round songs." Don't be a squirrel when you can be a lion!

Let's look at another example. This one tones down the LSD trip while losing none of the poetic power:

The girl made of wood didn't come here on foot;
suddenly there she was on the beach, sitting on the cobbles,
her head covered with old sea flowers,
her expression the sadness of roots.

There she stayed, watching over our open lives,
the moving and being and going and coming, over the earth,
as the day faded its gradual petals. She watched
over us without seeing us, the girl made of wood:

crowned by ancient waves, she looked out
through her shipwrecked eyes.
She knew we live in a distant net

of time and water and waves and noise and rain,
without knowing if we exist, or if we are her dream.
This is the story of the girl made of wood.

This is Pablo Neruda's description of a ship's figurehead. Would it have worked as well had he said, "There was an old figurehead on the beach at sunset"? Don't use a tired expression like "fiery sunset" when you can say "the day faded its gradual petals." This will mean not being satisfied with your first draft. Go over your poem and ask yourself, "Could I say this word, this phrase, this stanza, better?" Ermagerd, better words!

Okay, you rascally reptiles. Blow me away with your poetic imagery! I normally stipulate a new poem, but for this prompt you may also rework an older poem in keeping with the idea of poetic imagery. Any style, length or subject, but no ordinary or tired language. Owsley optional. ;-)

17 comments:

Kerry O'Connor said...

The examples you have given us speak volumes of inspiration. Thank you, Shay. As I am now on vacation, I have NO EXCUSE not to write.... Watch this space.

Magaly Guerrero said...

I've gone holey.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

The prompt is so good, it is a challenge to my sleeping Muse. And the two responses to it so far are over the top fantastic. I will give this a go. I love Fireblossom Fridays!

Kerry O'Connor said...

Hi Vivian, I tried twice to leave a comment but Wordpress booted me out.

Fireblossom said...

I, too, get booted by WordPress, and that's why i use Coalblack there.

I want to compose my own poem before i read you guys's, so bear with me. I look forward to seeing what you've written!!!!

Kim Russell said...

Great examples! I'm having a weird day, hence the Snow Queen poem.

Rommy said...

I thought deeply upon how to express, in the most subtle manner, certain thoughts that will not quit my mind. Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.

Fireblossom said...

Good grief, Toads! You are outdoing yourselves with some fantastic writing!

Mama Zen said...

Oh! Oh! I want to play!

hedgewitch said...

An old one you liked, Ms Fireblossom. I will try to read what everyone else has done when I can.

brudberg said...

Oh Good... I will try to write something tomorrow...

Anonymous said...

After such a great intro and marvellous poem choices was hesitant to try but reeled off something which may not be classified as poetry though

Toni Spencer said...

You should read the junk on the FB Haiku and Micropoetry....they give me shivers even as I think of them...I followed the site for about one hour and then unfollowed. I can see why haiku frightens you so badly. I think many times people "modernize" haiku as an excuse for writing badbadbadbadbad poetry.

brudberg said...

A little late with my entry, and now the sun us up and the ice is waiting for my skates. I will continue to read later.

Frank J. Tassone said...

Good Morning, Toads! Thanks, Fireblossom, for the challenge. Looking forward to enjoying everyone's poems!

Outlawyer said...

Just a wonderful prompt, Shay. Really inspiring. My worklife has become very difficult, but was very glad to read the prompt at least. k.

Mariya Koleva said...

Wow, I recognised my usual pieces in the bad example! I try to achieve the good example, but I don't.
Time to try, no harm in that.