Examples of Kinesthetic Imagery in Poetry

Kinesthetic imagery refers to descriptive language that evokes a sense of motion, action and physical sensations. It recreates the feeling of bodily movements, weight, tension, balance and position in space. Kinesthetic imagery immerses readers in experiences and actions.

Definition of Kinesthetic Imagery

Kinesthetic imagery creates a mental replication of the physical feelings caused by bodily movements, positions, and gestures. It taps into the reader’s proprioceptive memory to simulate the inner body sense called kinesthesia. Through vivid depictions of physical actions, kinesthetic imagery invokes an illusion of lived experience in the reader’s mind.

Difference Between Kinesthetic and Tactile Imagery

Kinesthetic imagery focuses on motion, tension and position of the body and limbs. For example, twisting, staggering, trembling, swaying. Tactile imagery relates to textures felt on the surface of the skin. For example, rough, slick, fuzzy, sharp. However, the two can intersect. Tactile sensations like cold, heat, wetness, impact, etc. can accompany kinesthetic movements. Together, they create strong physical setting and character experiences.

Examples of Kinesthetic Imagery in Poetry

Poetry often utilizes kinesthetic imagery to create dynamic and tangible moments.


“Heaven-Haven” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

“I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail.”

In the stanza, the author uses kinesthetic language to convey his imagined physical transition. The line “Where springs not fail” evokes the body relief and revitalization through never ending flowing springs that won’t “fail”. This creates a sensory experience of what quenching one’s spiritual thirst could physically feel like in heaven. Similarly, in the last line, the poet uses imagined bodily sensation of sharp hail pelting skin contrasted with peaceful and protected fields to differentiate the speaker’s current earthly commotion and hoped for heavenly rest. The poem activates the kinesthetic sense through descriptions implying movement, texture, sharpness and temperature that readers can relate to their own bodies. It makes the desire for the spiritual destination more viscerally meaningful.


“The Eagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

“He grasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.”

The lines contain imagery related to body movement and physical sensation. Specifically, the eagle “grasps the crag with crooked hands” creates a strong, visual and kinesthetic image of the eagle clinging to the rock face using its talons and curved feet. This conveys a sense of the physical exertion and body positioning of the eagle as it perches high up overlooking the land below. The kinesthetic imagery helps to make the reader feel as if they are embodied in the scene and experiencing the physical sensations along with the eagle.


“The Trees” by Philip Larkin

“The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.”

Larkin uses personification to give the trees almost human-like qualities. The buds have been described in a way that make us imagine slowly unfolding outwards, as if a person relaxing their body. This creates a subtle sense of gentle movement and physical expansion. The new leaves are portrayed as if they are actively “coming into leaf.” This hints at a emerging motion with the leaves growing outward as if they could move themselves. The personification of the growth of trees suggests bodily motions and feeling. The leaves and buds seem embodied with lifelike movement and response. Their expansion has an imagined kinesthetic vitality.


“Storm on the Island” by Seamus Heaney

“We are bombarded by the empty air.
Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.”

The lines contain a sense of dynamic and violent motion through the description of the island being “bombarded by the empty air.” This creates an impression of the fierce storm winds buffeting the islanders’ bodies. The description of the storm as a “huge nothing” paradoxically lends a sense of destructive physicality and embodied threat to the invisible. The use of violent verb “bombarded” and notion of an aggressively physical “nothing” generate an indirect yet dynamically kinesthetic image. The reader feels the storm winds pummeling their own body.


“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

“so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

The vivid tactile details of the wheelbarrow’s color, rain water glaze and composition from wheel and barrow create a strong visual and sensory image of the object and its physical properties.


“The Metamorphosis” by Kafka

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

This sentence uses vivid kinesthetic imagery to describe Gregor Samsa’s disturbing physical transformation. The passage conveys a strong sense of Gregor’s bodily experience. He imagines his sensation of waking up and immediately realizing his body has been radically altered. There is a clear sense of his physical form changing against his sheets as he lies in the bed. Kafka uses simple and effective language to create an unsettling imagined feel of Gregor’s metamorphosis. This evocative image makes almost feel his horrifying movement from man to bug.

Kinesthetic Imagery Examples in Regular Sentences

  1. The athlete lunged for the finish line with arms outstretched.
  2. The child happily skipped along the garden path picking flowers.
  3. The cake melted smoothly and deliciously on my tongue.
  4. The weight of responsibility caused her shoulders to slump wearily.
  5. The pieces of the vase lay shattered on the floor.
  6. The puppy bounced around the yard energetically.
  7. He tapped his fingers nervously on the table.
  8. The rickety house creaked and groaned in the stormy winds.
  9. The sheer cliff face towered dangerously over the climber.
  10. The baby snuggled warmly against her mother’s chest.
Examples of Kinesthetic Imagery in Poetry
Examples of Kinesthetic Imagery in Poetry

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