Literary devices are techniques that writers use to create a special and pointed effect in their writing, to convey information, or to help readers understand their writing on a deeper level.
Often, literary devices are used in writing for emphasis or clarity. Authors will also use literary devices to get readers to connect more strongly with either a story as a whole or specific characters or themes. For this session, we will discuss personification and imagery.
A figure of speech in which the poet describes an abstraction, a thing, or a nonhuman form as if it were a person. When inanimate objects, are given human qualities, this results in a poem full of imagery and description. Example: “The wind moaned, beckoning me to come outside.” In this example, the wind—a nonhuman element—is being described as if it is human (it “moans” and “beckons”).
Consider the first stanza of Jackie Kay’s poem Way Down below in the Streets of Paris:
I spied a small lonely boy.
I was his beautiful red balloon,
from morning through to noon
In this example, the poet is the red balloon, and the poem continues by describing the boy and the poet (as the balloon) sharing a walk through Parisian streets. Here is another example by William Blake:
The Sick Rose
BY WILLIAM BLAKE
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Imagery, in a literary or poetic sense, is the author’s use of description and vivid language, deepening the reader’s understanding of the work, by appealing to the senses. All imagery is aided through the use of other poetic devices, such as simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, etc.
There are different types of imagery. These include:
Visual imagery which refers to sights and allows the reader to visualise the subject, objects or events in the poem.
Auditory imagery refers to sounds and reminds the reader of common or specific sounds as a point of reference to deepen understanding.
Kinaesthetic imagery is related to movement and reminds the reader of body movement or positions that are familiar or imagined – such as the feeling of flying.
Smells and tastes can be referred to as Olfactory or Gustatory imagery respectively.
Tactile imagery refers to texture and feeling. Source
The following poems contain examples of imagery:
“This Is Just to Say” is an amazing example of gustatory imagery or imagery involving taste. There’s more going on beneath the surface of this poem, but the vivid description of taste draws the reader in.
This Is Just To Say
BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
T.S. Eliot – Preludes
This is an excerpt from “Preludes,” an imagery poem by T. S. Eliot. This is an excellent example of visual imagery and auditory imagery. You can almost see and hear the horse steaming and stamping and smell the steaks:
The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
Sources: Poetry Foundation
The Writing Challenge: Write a poem utilizing either Personification (giving human characteristics to objects, animals, or ideas) or Imagery (appealing to the senses). If you want to combined these poetic devices in one poem, its also okay.