Analysis on Imagery in William Carol Williams’ Poetry

8 August 2016

The use of imagery is one of the most commonly used techniques in poetry. Poets create an image in one’s mind through descriptive language, similes, and rhythm. Their words flow off the page to appeal to our senses. Those who have perfected this art let us see exactly what they see in their minds. William Carol Williams, David Solway, and Amy Lowell’s poems are perfect examples of imagery. William Carol Williams wrote poems about everyday scenes, but with his own twist on the language or structure. His “Poem” is a simple one about a cat moving around the house.

His poem proves that imagery doesn’t need to be complex, and it doesn’t need to be about something awe-inspiring. While Williams uses lightly descriptive adjectives, he uses another simple technique to give us an image; he breaks the lines and sentences down and changes the shape of the poem to create rhythm: As the cat climbed over the top of the jam closet first the right forefoot (lines 1-6) Williams wants you to focus on seeing one image at a time, and explains to you what to do with each image as he moves the cat in a specific direction.

He allows us to move with the cat, pausing with it, and continuing with it. David Solway is famous for his unique use of words. In “Windsurfing,” Solway has perfected the use of descriptive imagery. Each stanza alternates between what he wants us to see and what he wants us to feel. Solway creates a specific image in our minds of a single moment, and then lets us feel the moment as if we are there with him: Back it comes through a screen of particles, scalloped out of water, shimmer and reflection, the wind snapping and lashing it homeward, (lines 33-37) Another technique Solway uses here is his shape of the poem.

The first line of each stanza begins spaced over a bit, for me almost as if the wind has pushed it that far and then he is able to reel it back in as the surfer might bring back his sail. The well known Amy Lowell is renowned for her erotic and sensory imagery. This last poem titled “The Pond” by Lowell is a short and sweet use of descriptive imagery. She appeals to both sight, touch, and sound. Cold, wet leaves Floating on moss-colored water, And the croaking of frogs— Cracked bell-notes in the twilight. (lines 1-4) I can feel those cold and wet leaves as she describes them.

I see them floating at night in a dark brownish-green pond. I can hear the deep croaking of the frogs, ribbit-ing rhythmically like bells. I have not been very good at using descriptive language or imagery in my poems. I could model my poems after these examples to help make mine more complex and concentrated. Using techniques like Lowell’s appeal to the senses will engage a reader in my poems. These authors use imagery in every line and make it look easy. I think that the style comes with practice over time, but modeling my poems after theirs will help me create my own style of descriptive language.

Almost every single poem you will read uses images as a descriptive tool to inform the reader of the exact moment in time the author is trying to convey to the reader. Williams, Solway, and Lowell’s poems are perfect examples of this. The use of imagery appeals to the reader’s senses to set them in a specific scene. A poet could choose from meter, rhyme, repetition, shape, and/or irony to create their own style of poem. Every line of every poem uses some form of imagery, so it is very important to understand and be able to use the technique.

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