Some times one wonders if the use of imagery alone is what makes for poetry.What about a good turn of phrase which upsets the scheme of things ,makes you think of something other than what comes out as the plain meaning.I don’t mean cleverness in phrasing which apparently does not appeal to you as poetry but as mere skill with words.Come to think of it,what is imagery but a purely representational device used to convey the poet’s private vision.A mere figure of speech is not poetic imagery.
I have come to like the use of the paradox in the following poem :
I am your pilgrim, who wanders
to stay home; your monk,
who keeps silent when you demand
confessions and theology.
You are too difficult to love
directly; you have no roof
or floor, and I am too pious
for your rain and mud.
So I keep your shrine, the best of you,
the clean, the smiling rest of you.
I am a stubborn priest, who knows himself
only in the dwindling oil of you,
the weeping and rebellious flame
about to die.
“I am a pilgrim ,who wanders/To stay home” is a pleasant expression ,a paradox which is not forced on us trying out our intellectual prowess. A soft gentle expression such as what an address to the Supreme Being would warrant. “I am too pious for rain and mud” is a paradox which does not unduly challenge your understanding.
“I am a stubborn priest,who knows himself only in the dwindling oil of you ” is another wonderful image which conveys so much to a Hindu believer.”Stubborn” is unwavering in faith ,a faith which allows the priest to see himself” only in the dwindling oil of you” .As the oil lamp flickers with the dwindling of the oil ,it weeps and at the same time rebels before it finally dies out. The poet is referring to the last burst of the flame before it dies out. It rebels because it refuses to be extinguished with the last drop of the oil fighting a hopeless battle to continue to live.