Imagery + Contrast = Effective

cherries

As Confucius never said, “A two-fer is always better than a one-fer.”

In poetry-speak, this means it’s all well and good to strut your stuff with metaphor, alliteration, anaphora, et and cetera, but it always becomes that much more effective when you yoke two devices together like a pair of oxen.

As a brief example, see Athena Kildegaard’s poem, “Ripe Cherries,” below. Short and sweet, it marries imagery (the taste of cherries) with unexpected contrast (the firing of guns). Granted, you might not call “unexpected contrast” a poetic element, but I call it a tool that writers of all genres should have in their toolboxes.

Let’s see how it’s done:

 

Ripe Cherries
Athena Kildegaard

I read that the men,
on their way to Gettysburg,
stopped along the road
to pick and eat ripe cherries.

That the fruit should not
go to waste.

That they should take
such pleasure before battle.

That the oldest among them
should shake the trees
and the youngest gather
the fallen fruit.
That they should aim rifles
with the taste of cherries
against their teeth.

 

Simple, right? Plain-spoken and honest, the speaker gains our trust as someone who knows of what she speaks—Gettysburg. The anecdote sounds right, after all, given the specifics of old soldiers shaking cherries loose while young soldiers gather them from the ground.

Kildegaard also uses anaphora to good effect via four waves of “That the….”

What surprises nicely, though, is pairing the taste of cherries in one’s mouth with firing guns to kill your fellow man. Even if you are a veteran of the armed services, chances are you have never experienced that.

Thus does a simple technique, imagery, become a more complex one on the reader’s palate thanks to the well-aged (in oak barrels) surprise of juxtaposition.

Mmm. Two-fers are better than one-fers! Hats off to apocryphal sayings from The Analects, then!

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