March 13, 2013
Touching The Poesy The sound of the wind whistling through the air, the taste of a fresh blackberry on the tongue, the warm gentle touch of a significant other, the smell of vintage wine and cigars, and the colors of a rainbow. The Five senses touch the reader in a special way. They bring us into a story and make the reader feel as if they are there themselves. Writers of poetry of poetry and even haikus, a Japanese style poem which consists of seventeen syllables, use this literary element of Imagery continually in their work. Imagery uses Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch to touch the readers mind and bring them deeper into their poesy. Sight is the most commonly used sense. This brings the reader in to witness the crime, see the beauty of nature, view the details of the painting up-close etc. One example of the use of sight in poetry is in Billy Collins’s “Embrace”: You know the parlor trick. Wrap your arms around your own body and from the back it looks like someone is embracing you, her hands grasping your shirt, her fingernails teasing your neck. (1-6)
The reader can see this happening in their head, imagining maybe themselves doing this and how silly they might look. Then later on in the poem it talks about how alone you look in the from as if your waiting to be tailored for a straightjacket and again you can see this. Another example is in “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop. In “The Fish” She describes a fish that she caught, one she and many others have failed to catch, in great detail. She says “his brown skin hung in strips / like ancient wallpaper,” (lines 10-11) and in the following lines she speaks of the fish again and says: He was speckled with barnacles, fine rosettes of lime, and infested with tiny white sea lice, and underneath two or three rags of green weed hung down. (16-21)
She continues to describe the fish in great detail throughout the poem, seeing the hooks of his past catchers in his wise beard until oil begins to fill the boat going straight to the engine “ –until everything / was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!” (lines74-75) catching it on fire and she, like all the others tosses the uncatchable fish back to the water. Bishop’s entire poem is a feast for the eyes. Sound is the next sense. This allows the reader to go into the writer’s story and hear the world around them from car horns and sirens to the quiet of a peaceful forest. The first example of sound in poetry is in Jean Toomer’s “Reapers.” In “Reapers” Toomer says “Black reapers with the sound of steel on stones / Are sharpening scythes.” (lines 1-2). The reader can hear the sound of the metal against rock in their head, an unpleasant sound which in turn sets the dark tone for the poem. A few lines later Toomer writes “And there, a field rat, startled, squealing bleeds,” (line 6). Another eerie sound touches the auditory senses of a smell field mice squeling in pain. The next example is in the haiku “In the old stone pool” by Matsuo Basho. In this he says simply “In the old stone pool / a frogjump: / splishhhhh.” (lines 1-3) By using onomatopoeia the reader can now truly envision the sound in detail, hearing the frog splash into the water themselves. The next sense is Smell. By using “smelly” words the writer can manipulate the olfactory system to smell the odor of garbage or the aroma of soothing lavender. The first example of smell in poetry is in Theodore Roethke’s “Root Cellar.” In here he speaks of an old cellar with plants hanging from ceilings, dirt, and boxes all around. He says: And what a congress of stinks!- Roots ripe as old bait, Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich, Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.
With the words ripe, manure, mold, rank, the reader can just guess how this cellar smells and it isn’t nice that’s for sure. Another example is in T.S. Elliot’s “The winter evening settles down.” In