Day 12 Imagery

Imagery is any series of words used to create a mental picture, or sensory experience. Such images can be created by using figures of speech such as similes, metaphors, personification, and assonance. Images can also be created by relatable action words or onomatopoeias that trigger responses in the reader's mind. Imagery helps the reader imagine the sensations described as they are related through the language of the author. A simplistic view is that one can think of the imagery as painting a picture with words.

Imagery is also the term used to refer to the making (or re-creation) of any experience in the mind -- auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic, organic. It is a cognitive process employed by most, if not all, humans. When thinking about a previous or upcoming event, people commonly use imagery. For example, one may ask, "What color are your living room walls?" The answer to this question is commonly retrieved by using imagery (i.e., by a person mentally "seeing" one's living room walls).

  1. What kind of imagery is central to this poem?
  2. How is the imagery related to the emotional concerns of the poem?
  3. How do the subsidiary images relate to the central images?
  4. From what point in time does the speaker view the subject matter of the poem? What has happened to him in the interval?

Examine this analysis from Gale Research for more insight into this poem.





Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?


Your Turn: Reflect on an experience that triggers your own personal imagery. Begin by clustering that incident, triggering memories for each of your senses, even though you may not choose to include each sense in your final poem. Polish your images into a short poem which uses your personal imagery to re-create that experience. Be prepared to share.

Listen to Hayden read this poem.

Back to Poem-a-Day.