The Art of the Image

The dictionary defines poetry as “literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm…”  I totally agree with that definition but, I also believe that poetry is something much more than that, it is self-revelation, personal awareness, an exploration of our individual connection to the world, and everyone in it and perhaps most importantly, it speaks to others in a way that cannot only be understood but felt.

Because poetry, in all its intricacies and intellectual intensity, needs to be accessible to those we would share it with, it needs devices that speak a kind of universal language.  Aristotle said, “The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor.  This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.”  I believe that the use of metaphor (and simile) lifts the poem from telling to showing, from explaining to feeling, ultimately, from words on paper to words that imprint themselves, permanently, meaningfully, upon our brains and our hearts.

A metaphor tells us that one thing is another, totally different, thing.  For example, “She sat, a stone statue, staring at the empty space, he no longer filled.”  “She” becomes a “stone statue” creating a metaphor, telling us one thing is another, because we have used our “eye for resemblances.”  Another example of a metaphor, “The anger in his eyes was a knife cutting her until she bled tears.”  And one more, “The trees, servants to the storm, bent obediently.”

For me, metaphor is the breath of the poem, the heartbeat, the reason the poem exists at all.  But there is also the simile, a device which also adds meaning and emotional impact to the poem.  A simile is defined by the dictionary as, “a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid.”   “She sat like a stone statue, staring at the empty space, he no longer filled.”  “The anger in his eyes was like a knife cutting her until she bled tears.”  “The trees, like servants to the storm, bent obediently.”

Since I launched my poetry website (www.poetladykatz.com) I have had the honor of seeing many of your poems.  Sometimes poems have been sent in simply to share them with someone.  Sometimes, the poet has been seeking advice or a critique.  Whatever the reason, as poets we have a need to share our work, to bring others into our world of love, hope, pain, loss, or fear.  The poet, Miller Williams said, “A poem is only half a poem, until it is shared.”

So, if we, as poets, want to reach past the limitations of words with our poetry, we will need to employ our “eye for resemblances” and elevate our poem to a place of wonder, a place where the reader will feel what you feel, know what you know, share the connection we have, one to another, in a visceral way.





A thought first begins

as a feeling or notion

filled both with longing

and unbridled emotion

how to say it   give it wings

teach it to fly

how we struggle with words

how we try and we try

until suddenly there

on the branch of our brain

a small   

lovely bird

lands and sings a refrain

“I am passion   I am sorrow

I am love    I am loss

I’m the price that you pay

no matter the cost

I am words that become

what you’re feeling inside

I am truth that no longer

Is willing to hide   I speak in

a voice that is velvet and steel

I’m the art of the image

and I will make you feel.”


– Susan A. Katz (All rights reserved)

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