What is Imagery? In poetry, imagery is the use of descriptive language that appeals to the five senses; it is meant to add depth to a literary text and deepen the reader’s understanding of the work. In junior English III classes this past week, students completed a lesson based on Galway Kinnell’s poem, “Blackberry Eating,” in which they learned how to identify imagery within a text.
Before we analyzed the poem, we held a Socratic seminar in which students discussed what they thought imagery to be. Several students described imagery as the act or process of picturing something in one’s own mind; some defended their arguments by giving examples from their own experiences of reading a book or hearing a story. As we proceeded to define imagery within the context of literature, students came to understand that what they initially described as imagery is actually the effect of the use of imagery. When used effectively in a work, imagery enables the reader to picture the narrative for him or herself, as in “Blackberry Eating.”
We incorporated technology into this lesson, using a SMART board to project the text in the classroom for everyone to read aloud. After reading, we began analysis of the poem, during which students demonstrated their understanding and growing ability to identify imagery; they used the SMART board functions to highlight and underline words that appealed to them most. Some of the words students chose included “overripe,” “icy,” “black,” “silent,” and “prickly.” We discussed the impact of some of these words and speculated how the text would read differently without them. Though the poem is quite literal, could it be that “Blackberry Eating” would be that in title only without the use of such vivid language?
At the end of the lesson, students reflected on their learning by completing a “Big 5 Questions” worksheet that we have been using for poetry. One of the questions asks that students identify the literary devices the author uses in the poem (personification, alliteration, metaphor, simile, imagery). While our focus was imagery, students very keenly picked up on Kinnell’s use of alliteration as well. It could be argued that the use of alliteration in this poem amplifies the imagery, and could, in turn, inspire a conversation about how literary devices can complement one another, but we will save that for another lesson as we continue to explore the use of literary devices in this unit.