I like poetry, both as a reader and as a writer.
I received a lovely hand-written rejection note once from an editor at a San Francisco poetry review. He very much liked one of the poems I'd submitted but wrote he was rejecting it with regret, because of the “absence of images.”
I've thought of that phrase off and on since then. I think what he was saying is that words without images, no matter how elegantly or persuasively or accurately used, aren't quite enough to capture the heart and mind of the reader/listener.
At first I had a hard time understanding; I thought the point of writing was communication, beauty – what did images have to do with it? What did he mean by “image” anyway?
The more I thought about it the more I began to understand how useful an image is in communicating with words. An image is a “word picture” of the thing we're talking/writing about. It might be realistic and detailed, it might be abstract or impressionistic, but an image fills out our words, shows us something we won't “see” otherwise.
An image might be made up of words, but the content is more than just words.
Then, this morning, something else clicked. In the book of Colossians, the apostle Paul writes , “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God . . . for in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15a, 19-20)
Jesus (the Word) is the image in God's story. We have trouble understanding God from just the words of the law and the prophets. We just don't always “see” what it is God is getting at, unless we encounter Jesus, the “image” of the invisible God – the picture of God.
So now I'm thinking and wondering – how does that “image,” that picture of God, capture my mind and heart? There is no absence of that image if I keep my eyes and heart open, so when and where do I see it? How is the “image” different – fuller, more than just the words themselves?