Poetry Anthology Project Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3415 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Freshman  ·  Topic: Literature

Power of Imagery Explored in Poetry

David Ignatow

William Wordsworth

Maurice Kenny

Denis Levertov

Robert Frost

Joy Harjo

Elizabeth Bishop

Komunyakaa

William Shakespeare

Louise Gluck

Poetry's best friend is the imagination. Without the ability to imagine, poets and readers would cease to exist. Poets utilize many elements to ignite imagination, with imagery being one of their most popular devices. From the masterful eye of William Wordsworth to the humor of David Ignatow, we are blessed with countless examples of how imagery not only brings poetry to life but also gives it a meaning of its own. We would never think of learning anything from a poem about a bagel rolling on the ground but Ignatow shows us how. The same can be said for drawing a connection between the human spirit and the earth but Maurice Kenny and Joy Harjo illustrate how that can be done. The world of poetry is a magical one because there are few rules to constrain it. When the right thoughts and words come together, images generally jump off the page and cause us to see things in a way we never did before.

In David Ignatow's poem, "The Bagel," imagery plays an important part in helping the reader understand what the poet is feeling. The poet first provides us with an image of the bagel "Rolling away in the wind," (Ignatow 2). It does not stop and fall flat but rather continues to roll "faster and faster" (6) and the image becomes funnier when we being to picture the poet "running after it / Bent low, gritting my teeth" (7-8). The final image of the poet "head over heels" (11) in a "complete somersault" (11) is one that reverses the mood of the poem, moving from frustration to humor. With this style, the poet is reminding us of how we should not allow the smaller things life get us down.

This poem was humorous because it puts things into perspective. The bagel dropping to the ground and rolling away was no big deal in the scheme of things and the poet emphasizes this with the image of himself rolling along with the bagel.

One poet that encourages us to use our imagination is William Wordsworth. Wordsworth calls nature to mind when he asks us to consider something from his point-of-view. David Perkins writes that Wordsworth poetry has a way of "confronting ultimate questions, and hence living with the depth and passion that come only in their presence" (Perkins 169). We see this type of confronting and living with depth and passion in "I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud." In this poem, Wordsworth gives us an invigorating perspective on the man's relationship with nature. The poet compares his sense of loneliness to a solitary cloud floating through the sky. This loneliness breaks at the sight of "golden daffodils: / Beside the lake, beneath the trees" (Wordsworth 4-5). The poet's description of the flowers illustrates his ability to capture the beauty of nature. In this poem, we have images of the flowers "fluttering and dancing in the breeze" (6). They are "tossing their heads in sprightly dance" (12). This vision of the daffodils dancing in the breeze is unique and it forces us to see how the poet allows himself to become a part of the experience. Even when he is in a "pensive mood / the flash upon that inward eye" (20-1). Here we see the image is also a powerful memory. This memory is the image the poet wishes to show us because the meaning and feeling of the poem needs to be as significant to the reader as it is to the poet.

I enjoyed this poem because it emphasizes the power of the human imagination. This poem leans on the magic of the human imagination to bring the daffodils alive but once that imagination is locked into place, the poem is a delightful diversion.

Maurice Kenny's poem, "Legacy" is captures the communion Native Americans share with nature. Imagery is significant in this poem because the poet is identifying it with his character. Early he learned the importance of details, "a lesson of critical importance since it showed him how to create strong moments of identification between poet and reader" (Wilson). From the opening lines of "My face is grass," (Kenny 1), the poet is making a deep connection with the earth. He attaches every aspect of his body to something in nature and she even writes her "thoughts are winds / which blow" (5-6). His memories are like a trek in the woods and all the creatures therein remind her of "stories / of my many mornings / and the dark faces of night / mingled with victories / of dawn and tomorrow" (13-7). All of the human experience is represented by and through elements of nature, allowing the poet to give the reader a taste of his spiritual experience. An experience that is a legacy as she gives birth and passes down the "tracks of my feet" (29) to another, which will "hold the sun / and the moon" (35-6). This legacy will live on in the "fires" (39) of her village through the very act of humanity communing with nature.

I enjoyed this poem because of the poet's ability to connect with the earth. This poem relies on imagery to establish a mood of harmony with the earth and life itself. The Native American has respected the earth and held her in high regard; this poem captures not only that respect but also the oneness that comes from such a union.

In Denise Levertov's poem, "A Time Past," we see the poet using imagery from something other than an object found in nature. Paul Lacey writes Levertov "loved to explore what she called the borderland of art " (Lacey) and this is evident with this poem. These objects are simply steps but they hold memories that fill her mind and heart. This is a poignant poem about the moments she spent on those steps. She remembers her husband how much she loved him on the wooden steps that are "gone now, decayed / replaced with granite, / hard, gray, and handsome (Levertov 10-12). The steps may be replaced but they provide a foundation for her. They "live / only in me: / my feet and thighs / remember them, and my hands / still feel their splinters" (13-17). This image is powerful because the poet is linking the steps, which no longer exist, to her body, which makes them exist in a purely metaphysical way. Even as a memory, they are almost alive. We could say that these step remain alive for the poet because she lived much of her life on them in a variety of ways. From sitting with friends to sitting alone, her life became a part of the steps leading to her home. A single moment of expressing love still burns brightly in the poet's mind as she remembers the her husband telling her he loved her when they were young. The memory, kept alive by the image of "the quiet broken by no bird, no cricket, gold leaves / spinning in silence" (26-27) is enough to draw the poet back into another time and place. The poem concludes with an icy image of the steps no longer steps but slabs of wood that "wait somewhere to be burnt" (32). Here we see the weight of the world crashing in on the delicate nature of a memory.

I can appreciate the honesty in this poem. It is about something so simple and yet profound. This poem is all about how life goes on amidst changes, good or bad. The image of the steps is powerful because they represent all of life that happens even on seemingly inconsequential objects.

In Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods," we find several examples of imagery that help bring the poem to life. Like some of the poets we have mentioned, Frost works with images commonly found in nature. The poet has paused long enough in his daily business to watch the woods "fill up with snow" (Frost 4) on the "darkest evening of the year" (5). Already, with these two images, the poet has created the mood and tone for this poem. It is beautiful and it is somber. It may be cold but there is something engaging about the atmosphere that makes the poet want to take in the scenery. It is so peaceful and quiet the poet hears the "wind and downy flake" (11) settling around him. This moment in time at this particular place is a symbol of peace that contrasts the real world. The poet dreads having to move on but he has obligations to keep and "miles to go before I sleep" (15). This dread only makes the poet want to linger more in the tranquil woods. The snow falls quietly and it is beautiful even in the cold. The obligations of life often weigh… [END OF PREVIEW]

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