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Imagery in Poetry ~ Rubaiyat Support

Hello Fellow Poets!  I’m Jilly, your bartender for this edition of Meeting the Bar.  We are focusing the month of February on the Rubaiyat, a Persian poetic form.  Frank Hubeny opened the month-long challenge with his post two weeks ago and I am here to follow up with support.


The word Image is synonymous with Picture and makes us think of the Visual, as it should, but that is limiting.  Imagery in literature is when we spark the reader’s senses – any of them – all of them! Imagery pulls the reader into the poem and allows them to feel as if they are there.

Imagery is an essential component in the Rubaiyat form, so let’s take a look at some examples of language that appeals to our physical senses.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, which Frank posted two weeks ago – a contemporary Rubaiyat – has some great imagery.  Consider the third stanza:

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   


This is Auditory Imagery: He gives his harness bells a shake / and The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake
We hear the sound of the harness bells and the soft, almost silent sound of the wind and snowfall.

Or in Langston Hughes’ Harlem

What happens to a dream deferred?

     Does it dry up
     like a raisin in the sun?
     Or fester like a sore—
     And then run?
     Does it stink like rotten meat?
     Or crust and sugar over—
     like a syrupy sweet?

     Maybe it just sags
     like a heavy load.

     Or does it explode?


The imagery is
Tactile: Or fester like a sore
Does it stink like rotten meat?

You get the idea – appeal to the senses – all six of them.  (Did she say ‘six?’) Yes I did and in fact, you can find all kinds of references to imagery that go beyond even that number, but I am going to limit it to six: 1.) Visual, 2.) Tactile/Touch, 3.) Olfactory/Smell, 4.) Taste, 5.) Auditory, and 6.) Kinesthetic.


The Kinesthetic sense is that which causes us to feel and sense motion. Think of that roller coaster, that time when you were sea-sick, or when you fell down the stairs as a child. We all recognize the dizzying feeling or the joy of motion, depending on the situation.  Of course, employing kinesthesia can also be the experience of something other than ourselves in motion. Consider the daffodils:

“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”

In fact, Wordsworth’s famous poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, is filled with imagery.

This line causes the reader to see and feel the motion of that vast ocean of yellow as they bounce and sway in the breeze.


This month, many of us are focusing on the Rubaiyat form, and Imagery is a delightful tool to use in your poems, and certainly a hallmark of that form.  I encourage you to add Imagery to your writing and to your revisions.

This link to Frank’s Rubaiyat Challenge is open for two more weeks.

This is a feedback and revision process, so please take the time to read what others have posted. We are encouraging each other in revision, so offer feedback when it is asked for. If you haven’t stopped by in awhile, you will be surprised at how many new and delightful poems have been posted.  Be sure to read the later postings, too!

Happy Writing, Y’all!