Symbolism And Imagery In Poetry #NationalPoetryMonth

Symbolism and words
Poetry banks heavily on literary devices to make a mark on the reader’s mind. A poem that doesn’t touch the heart loses its appeal, which is enhanced with imagery and symbols.
“Symbolism is the art of using an object or a word to represent an abstract idea. An action, person, place, word, or object can all have a symbolic meaning.”

Poets have used ‘Sun’ as a symbol for light and hope. Even a setting sun is glorified as it leaves with the promise of rising next day with new possibilities to explore.

There can be no better example than the following lines from ‘Auguries of Innocence’ by William Blake, loaded with symbols:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand,
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour”

I think after the simple example of sun, you  can spot the symbols in the above lines. When the poet uses ‘world’ for a grain of sand, he wants you to extend your imagination to its wilder limits and by seeing ‘heaven’ in a wild flower, he wants to convey the elation that one could feel at the sight of natural beauty.

Look at the following poem, composed by my blogger friend Miriam, in which symbolism stands out in perfect harmony with her thoughts:
Thanks to Miriam for sharing her poem.


Two herons fly
love and life in harmony
wisdom and purity,
Wingtip to wingtip they soar,

Thus to fly, what would we see below,
on our planet of beauty and wealth?
marred by rivers of sadness,
of people dispossessed, broken;

What blessing would it be,
so to float, in unity above;
Above strife and savagery.

The herons glide down,
gracefully land;
among the reeds by the lake.
Fishing, resting,
Meeting their tribe.

Are they simply like us?
a different embodiment,
With advanced spirituality.
© miriam ivarson

Herons are used as symbols in the above poem to convey a profound idea of harmony and unity that human beings crave for.

“The mental pictures created by a piece of writing: “The imagery of “The Waste Land”: (crumbling towers, dried up wells, toppled tombstones) conveys the author’s sense
of a civilization in decay.”

Imagery creates mental pictures and we can visualise the scene through the words. When William Wordsworth says: ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills’… he carries us along, we immediately get transported to an open area and a picture of sky opens before us.
Imagery stirs our senses.

Types of imagery

Visual imagery appeals to our eyes and is most commonly used in poetry. In the following lines, Robert Frost has mixed visual and auditory imagery to convey the thoughts of traveller’s horse and remind him that the weather was too bad to stop in the middle of the woods:

“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.”
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

The following lines exemplify auditory imagery:
“But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.”
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The following lines show organic imagery, bringing out the emotions and hunger of the poet:
“If each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
If You Forget me.”
– Pablo Neruda

Figures of speech like metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration and assonance are mixed with imagery to enhance the beauty of poetic language.

One of my blogger friends, Radhika, who considers herself “an infant poet” who started her “odyssey with words,” with her blog has shared a poem, which uses the most powerful images like ‘smoky conversations’ and ‘frozen whispers.’


The air pregnant with the northern winds
embraces the earth with a shivering hug
kisses the dull morning sky with a misty spell
under the blanket of the opaque fog.
A witness to this winter morning ritual
the coy and shy flowers smile tenderly
the gentle rays of the sun peeking
through the stale grey clouds
creating gleaming patterns of mosaic
on the landscape painted in a monochrome.
Buried greenery, frosted pathways
lashing winds, chattering teeth,
smoky conversations and frozen whispers,
It’s time to enjoy the seasonal beauty
that winter brings along!
© Radhika

I would be gifting two ebooks of ‘Sublime Shadows Of Life‘, my debut book to those two readers who write the most poetic answer to all the posts I publish this month – #NationalPoetryMonth. Happy writing!

You might also like: How to Understand Poetry

How Poetry Makes us Positive Minded

Thank you for reading this. Please share your valuable reflections, as they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.


34 thoughts on “Symbolism And Imagery In Poetry #NationalPoetryMonth

  1. This is such an important skill to learn while writing poetry, Balroop, and also writing in general. So glad you talked about this and brought up relevant examples. Agree visual imagery appeals to the eyes. It gives us a sense of direction and helps us feel the characters and narrative, and most importantly message that you are trying to convey. Alliteration is one of my favourite techniques and when used right, you emphatically emphasise your point strongly – and you do that well in your poems 😊

    1. I am glad you liked this post Mabel…I was thinking it may become quite heavy, That’s why I have included little examples though picking out symbols is a big challenge. I too love alliteration, 🙂 Thank you for an insightful comment.

  2. Dear Balroop,

    An outstanding post–informative, educational and your poetic examples of literary devices is exceptional! 🙂 Must share…

    Happy Poetry Month!

    1. Thank you dear Bette for sharing your opinion about this post. I am so delighted to read it as it took me a lot of time to put all this together. 🙂

  3. Fabulous post Balroop. Love ‘the devices’ of poetry. Your examples and sharing of the beautiful poems were educational in demonstrating the various senses to evoke the stories. 🙂

  4. Thanks a ton Balroop for writing about the literary devices which go a long way in writing more meaningful poetry. The nuances of the imagery and the examples make it so easy to understand. Finally a big thank you for sharing my poem🙏

    1. Thank you Radhika, your poem fitted this post extremely well. You will go a long way…keep writing! Your poems are getting better with each new endeavor. 🙂

  5. Wow! 😀 A wonderful post and a feast of exquisite poems … this has been a treat for my Monday morning. Blake’s poem almost made it into my post yesterday and immediately engages the imagination to see beyond our normal limited sight and expectations. I remember Miriam’s ‘Soaringly’ from her blog and my soul soars with the power of her words, soars with the two herons as through them we see the world in their flight until her final realisation and question that perhaps they have advanced spirituality! I haven’t read Radhika’s poems before but definitely will now. I’m captured with the wistful and lyrical touch to her poem ‘Winter’, light as snow, delightful! Thank you for sharing the poems, and all about symbolism in this celebratory poetic post! ❤️

    1. Your words are delightful Annika and clearly reflect your love for poetry…both the poems that I have shared in this post exemplify imagery so well and yes, I agree with you, they let our imagination soar. I could almost see the herons flight and descent. ‘Winter’ by Radhika too exhibits similar quality of taking us along and letting the reader feel the chill in the air with her words. I am feeling blessed with the support that these budding poets have shown to my call of celebrating the poetry month together. Many thanks for your lovely words of encouragement. Stay blessed!

  6. Dear Balroop, I was reading your fascinating post and kept nodding agreement. Read Blake’s beautiful verse
    and then to my utter surprise I find a poem by myself there.
    I want to thank you for the honour Balroop, I was deeply touched.

    As I continued every poem you picked rang so deep and true with me
    You have with sure and firm hand covered what might be the core of poetry.
    This must be what makes readers go further within themself to find their truth.
    I like to think so now, you got me to think about it.😊 . Thanks.

    1. Many thanks dear Miriam for contributing your poem though i chose the one that aligned so well with the topic. Blake must have inspired a million budding poets with his images. I am glad you like the extracts, such nuances help in understanding and writing with depth. Stay blessed and keep inspiring with your beautiful words. Love and hugs.

  7. If I were an aspiring poet, Balroop, this would be a perfect early lesson. You clearly define and describe the literary devices used in poetry. Something else came through while I was reading this… I sensed a love of teaching and infinite patience. I also saw an aura of shimmering aqua. I would not have seen these things had your heart not been open ❤️

    1. Your words are like music to my ears Tina…writing such posts is a learning experience for me too. Many thanks for such beautiful words dear friend, you made my day! Love and hugs.

  8. Dear Balroop, Such wonderful examples of the use of imagery as the words take you beyond, into that landscape of the mind.. Loved the poems which you shared with us Balroop ❤ Wishing you a beautiful week my friend. Love and Blessings
    Sue ❤

  9. A fabulous post celebrating the art of poetry, Balroop. Thank you for sharing the love. The poems were a delightful treat, as well. Thank you! XO

  10. Great examples! Imagery and symbolism is huge part of what makes writing, any writing stand out to me! Cheers for a great post!

  11. Symbolism and imagery help the readers to build up an image while reading a poem. Nicely explained, Balroop. Both the poem, by Miriam and Radhika, are wonderful in their own ways. They’ve used the figures of speech successfully. Thanks for sharing… 🙂

  12. it helps me understand more about imagery and symbolism…. which is the focu of my study. thanks

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