Here, I hit a new chapter of the textbook called “imagery”. This word is often associated with the visual arts, paintings, sculpture, film, murals, so when applied to the purely literary arts it takes on a slightly different tone. Instead of an image being presented for a viewer to interpret the idea it represents, a visual picture is painted with words. Instead of seeing a girl holding a frog, the poet writes: “she with dimpled cheeks and golden locks, a simple orange frock, stripped socks and tennis shoes puts pink lips near his smooth, slimy, green and brown, mottled, swamp-water skin.” The viewer is guided through the picture with symbols that represent the representation. What does the image of a girl kissing a frog mean? Well, we can take from our common social knowledge of fairy tales, or we can decide for ourselves something wholly unique (perhaps she is the symbol of socialization and he is the symbol of the wilderness).
When a poet creates a word portrait, the words are chosen very carefully to evoke the right image and the right emotional feeling. I could have called the girl “a slender, white beauty” and the frog “warty, mud-colored ugly thing”. This renders a different picture than the one I originally painted. Instead of Pipi Longstocking, the girl is a fairy tale princess and instead of an innocent swamp creature, the frog is some grotesque thing dug out of the mud.
Ezra Pound creates a word portrait in “In a Station of the Metro” in a similar manner. This poem was originally thirty lines, so be assured that the words chosen were done painstakingly so. He’s not simply showing us a visual, but giving us an impression much like a haiku. And when you read the poem, you feel as if you are in a magical place where many wondrous things are happening. The thing I love best about this poem is that it is proof that simple, though difficult to attain, is always best.
In a Station of the Metro
by Ezra Pound
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.