What Are Poetic Sensory Words?

Sensory words in poetry are those that powerfully invoke instances of sense perception for the reader, particularly those invoking the five senses themselves: taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing. Through the use of sensory language, the poet seeks to enhance the poem's experiential nature.

Poetry often has a capacity to create a sense of immersion for the reader that is more powerful than that correspondingly found in general prose. Sensory language, or sense words, play an enormous role in this. Adjectives are one of the primary tools employed by poets in this regard, adding crisp and stimulating descriptions of the material presented. For example, anxiety may be described as paralyzing or prickly; the sun may be described as burning or blinding. In each case, several sensations or sense faculties are brought into play, layering the experience with complexity.

Another common sensory language tool for poets is the metaphor. Rather than being straightforward description, the metaphor compares the material in the poem to something else, either explicitly or inferentially. An emotion, for instance, may be compared to a tide rolling across the surface of the ocean. Not only does this produce a specific type of imagery for the reader, it also allows her to recall her own concrete experiences of being in the sea, perhaps at high tide, and to transfer that recollection to her appreciation of the poem and its potential meaning. Thus, metaphor not only amplifies and expands the poet's ability to create sensory connections, but also her ability to introduce symbolism and allegory into the content of the poem.