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Imagery in Poetry

making the abstract concrete

Nicole Kronzer

on 31 October 2018

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Transcript of Imagery in Poetry

making the abstract concrete
“Writing as an art begins when we surrender ourselves to the world of images.”
--Janet Burroway Imaginative Writing
Info taken in
through 5 senses
processed in
limbic system
generates sensuous responses
in the body:
heart rate
blood & oxygen flow
muscle reaction, etc.
emotional response consists of these
physical reactions
so in order to create
emotion in your reader...
...you have to get into
the brain through the
5 senses
Okay, fine, Kronzer. Prove it.
Here is a thought that doesn’t contain an image:

It is best to consider consequences before proceeding.
Here is an image [though cliche] that contains the same thought:

Look before you leap.
A thought without an image:

I will do everything in my power to overturn this unjust verdict.
An image that contains the thought:

I will fall like an ocean on that court!
-- (Arthur Miller, The Crucible)
Every case of flat writing is full of ABSTRACTIONS, GENERALIZATIONS, and JUDGEMENTS.

When these are replaced with CONCRETE NOUNS and ACTIONAL VERBS, we can visualize, the writing comes alive!

At the same time, the ideas, generalizations, and judgements are also present in the images.
Show, don't tell
Use images--appeal to
our 5 senses
avoid stand-alone
& Judgments
ideas that cannot be experienced directly through a sense (intelligence, love, anger)
can only be vaguely visualized because they include too many of a given group (something, creatures, kitchen supplies)
tell us what to think instead
of showing us (beautiful, insidious, suspiciously)
"The greatest writers are effective largely because
they deal in particulars and report the details that matter."
--William H. Strunk
Vivid writing contains CONCRETE,
make a list of 5 abstractions
make a list of 5 generalizations
make a list of 5 judgments
concrete: something that can be seen, heard,
smelled, tasted, or touched

significant: it's worth talking about
Taxonomy of Nouns
'64 Chevy
'64 Chevy Suburban
Where does your noun fit?
We want it high on the taxonomy.
Take your list of
abstractions, generalizations,
and judgements and change
5 into concrete, significant details.
Pick 5 nouns from the lists you generated, and create a Taxonomy of Nouns for each.
Now with a partner, write a short poem (4-8 lines) full of abstractions, generalizations, & judgements.


I love my girlfriend.
Our lives are full of joy.
We never make each other feel guilty.
She makes me so happy!

Take your poem and SHOW us, using nouns high on the taxonomy, active verbs, and by appealing to our senses!

My girlfriend is sunshine after 7 months of winter.

Our lives together are brand new books, flowers in full bloom, and front row seats at a Death Cab for Cutie concert.

We never make each other feel like the squeak of the dresser drawer after trying to soundlessly return my sister’s sweatshirt.

She makes me see ladybugs instead of Japanese fighting beetles, refreshing rain instead of thunderstorms, opportunities instead of Mondays.

WAIT-- can I never use an abstract noun?
Yes, but in poetry, there should be roughly
a 10-to-1 ratio of concrete to abstract nouns.
(much excerpted from Janet Burroway's book Imaginative Writing)
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