What is Imagery and Its Types? | Examples of Imagery in Poetry

Definition of Imagery

Imagery refers to the trove of descriptive words and evocative phrases that writers carefully select to stir the five senses. By tapping into sensory details, imagery plants vivid perceptions and sparks concrete ideas to unfold inside the reader’s imagination. Like an impressionist painting, skillful imagery brushes each scene with dashes of color and texture using the precise perfect words to translate vision into feeling.

Powerful imagery renders an immediate sensory experience for readers. With vivid specificity, it helps conjure textures we can nearly reach out and touch, striking visuals that project cinematic scenes, resonating sounds that echo, tantalizing scents wafting right to our nostrils, and tastes so palpable our mouths water. Through their skillful mastery of imagery, great writers manifest sensations so real and tangible that we forget words on a page for a moment as fiction comes alive, immersing us within dynamic and nuanced imaginary worlds.

Types of Imagery

1- Visual Imagery

Language that appeals to the sense of sight, conjuring images of colors, shapes, and other visual details.


a) The golden hue of a sunset.
b) The steep rocky cliffs of a coastline.
c) The intricate embroidery on a gown.

2- Auditory Imagery

This type of imagery evokes auditory sensations and sounds for readers to imagine hearing.


a) The scream of a violin.
b) The pitter patter of rain on cobblestone streets.
c) The baying of hounds in the night.

3- Olfactory Imagery

Olfactory imagery taps into the sense of smell, describing scents and odors.


a) The acrid smoke of a snuffed candle.
b) The sweet aroma of lilacs in springtime.
c) The salty fragrance of an ocean breeze.

4- Gustatory Imagery

The language that conveys taste sensations, depicting flavors that readers can almost experience on their tongues.


a) The tangy tartness of a green apple.
b) The spice and heat of a simmering curry.
c) The smooth sweet creaminess of chocolate ice cream.

5- Tactile Imagery

It creates textural and sensory details that readers can imagine feeling, as if touching the described surfaces, textures, and sensations.


a) The plush velvet nap of an elegant dress.
b) The slick smooth surface of a stone.
c) The prickly needles of a pinecone.
d) The chill bumps on one’s arm from an autumn night mist.

Examples of Imagery in Poetry


“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

The poet describes himself walking alone and feeling as free and detached as a cloud drifting above the valleys and hills. This creates a dreamy, peaceful mood. Suddenly he comes upon a field full of daffodils dancing in the wind beside a lake and trees. The words “golden”, “fluttering” and “dancing” create vivid sensory images of the bright yellow flowers blowing gently in the breeze. The reader can easily picture them and almost see them moving. So in just a few lines, Wordsworth uses visual imagery to take the readers from the lonely wandering cloud to the lively field of golden daffodils that the poet stumbles upon. The contrast and color make a vivid mental picture for the reader and also set a nice tone going from pensive solitude to surprise joy.


“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

“And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before”

Poe sets an ominous mood by focusing on what the narrator hears – the soft, whispery sounds of the purple curtains rustling. The alliteration of “silken, sad, uncertain” makes the reader tune into the hushed sound effects. The curtains thrilling and filling the narrator with unfamiliar fright uses auditory imagery to foreshadow impending doom right before the raven arrives. The readers can imagine the narrator frozen in suspense, listening to those creepy rustling curtains that create “fantastic terrors” about what will happen next. Poe relies on sound-based imagery not visuals here to convey emotion and make us sense the narrator’s growing unease through the simple sensory description of curtains blowing in the breeze. The scary mood is built just by focusing intently on menacing sounds and the terror they evoke.


“The Touch of Earth” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“The touch of earth is soft,
And soft as velvet lies
The meadowy path we walk;
He holds my hand and laughs,
To feel how soft the grass is.”

The poet uses tactile imagery, meaning descriptions that appeal to the sense of touch. Phrases like “touch of earth is soft” and comparing the meadow path to “soft as velvet” allow us to nearly feel the soft grass and dirt underfoot. Terms like velvet also add a plush, cushy texture we can imagine. The soft sensations continue with the man in the scene laughing and holding the poet’s hand tightly to share how wonderfully smooth the earth feels beneath their bare feet. The imagery centers on tangible textures the lovers revel in rather than sights or smells.


“Owls” by Siv Cedering Fox

“And the owls with their monotonous cries
Which are ominous grown to despise,
And the loud flapping bats
From the depths of dim haunted flats”

The stanza uses sounds to create an ominous mood. It mentions the owls’ “monotonous cries.” The readers can imagine these repetitive hoots going on and on, becoming annoying and even scary. Connecting the hoots to being “ominous” and something to “despise” makes them seem like they are predicting bad things coming. We also hear loud bats flapping their wings as they come out of “dim haunted flats.” So in addition to the creepy owl sounds, we now have these bats noisily appearing from spooky areas. Between the unsettling hoots and the loud fluttering, the stanza creates an atmosphere of eeriness and unease just through auditory imagery – making us listeners picture these unnerving nighttime sounds that suggest frightening things lurking in the darkness. Rather than describing visuals or smells, the poem relies solely on sound elements to make us imagine we’re there hearing the ominous noises.


“I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed” by Emily Dickinson

“I taste a liquor never brewed
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an alcohol!”

This stanza uses taste imagery to evoke a sensation we can’t literally experience. When the poet talks about tasting a “liquor never brewed,” it enables the readers to imagine some phantom drink that exists beyond physical reality. Instead of describing an actual drink from actual tankards or berries, the taste is intangible -something magically scooped like liquor but not made from real ingredients. Those who tasted alcohol can visualize how this mysterious drink might hit our tongue even though it couldn’t be brewed from a known process. The stanza doesn’t rely on sight, sound, touch or smell. Rather, taste imagery dominates as we picture this elusive flavor. The act of tasting grounds the people even when the flavor comes from an unearthly “pearl” tankard rather than a physical one. By activating taste sensations through imagery, the poem transports the readers to new imaginative vistas where they can conceive of sampling flavors beyond ordinary human experience.


“Soft Summer Wind” by Alexander Anderson

“There was a soft and summer wind
A-blowing from the land of snow,
The white and glimmering drifts of heaven
Blew down the cold and wintry glow.”

The stanza describes a wind that mixes together hot and cold. When it talks about “a soft and summer wind” coming from “the land of snow,” the readers get this image of a warm summer breeze carrying cold air as if blowing from winter into summer. The “white and glimmering drifts of heaven” make the cold seem beautiful. But that winter cold clashes with the gentle summer wind. In our minds, we can picture gusts of snow swirling together with drafts of warm air. Using summer and winter imagery together evokes this sensation of impossible hot and cold fused winds. It imagines the feeling of an arctic chill within a heavenly summer breeze – opposites mingling. The language takes the readers into a fantasy place where soft warmth transports icy flakes in a way that could never happen in real life. The stanza makes the reader visualize and almost feel this unreal hot, cold, gentle yet snowy wind. The creative imagery constructs an imaginative experience through contrasts.

Imagery Examples in Poetry
Imagery Examples in Poetry

Related Terms

Figurative Language

Figurative language refers to words and phrases that go beyond their literal meaning to create vivid sensory images. Examples of figurative language that rely on imagery include metaphors, similes, personification, and descriptive adjectives. Using figurative language is a hallmark way for writers to incorporate imagery into their works.

Sensory Details

Sensory details refer to descriptive words and phrases that engage the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. By tapping into sensory details, writers can allow readers to perceive the colors, textures, sounds, scents and flavors being depicted vividly in their imagination. Vivid sensory details are building blocks used to construct strong imagery.

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