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
more, so I hit the
snooze button and rolled
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. ;-)