These exercises are so you can learn by doing, which is where most of the real learning happens. Some are so standard as to be attributable to no one, some are mine, others are pulled from a variety of sources.
Consider the forms of imagery in the following poems: Hardy’s “To A Darkling Thrush,” Frost’s “After Apple Picking,” Stephen Dunn’s “Happiness,” Paul Eluard’s “Blazon,” Moore’s “The Fish,” Lucille Clifton’s “Hips.” Note what sort of imagery each poet favors. How does their choice of images effect style and tone? Pick a style and a type of imagery that goes with it – preferably one that’s different from what you usually write, and imitate it.
from Primer on Imagery (which you can read here) by Joe Weil
Take a color. Almost every color will bring a rush of associations. Colors are loaded with memory, smell, feeling, touch and taste. Notice all the places you see red. A jeep. A red leash, silk dress. Let the colors take you. Write the color’s poem. Include foods. Choose one: chartreuse, fuchsia, orange, purple, magenta, azure, slate, goldenrod, alizarin crimson, venetian red, cobalt, spring green. What are all the things that color makes you see? Let a thing of the color suggest other things of the color. Write short pieces, one after the other, letting each color move, trigger memories and suggest images.
from Poemcrazy by Susan G. Woolridge
Pick one very interesting object – a sculpture, a strange thingamadude, an heirloom, a talisman - and describe it in detail. Let the details take you unexpected places, but try always to come back to the object. Then do the same for a very mundane object. How are the poems about the two different?
Think of a memory (of a person, place, event, moment, thought) that is accompanied by a feeling you can’t name. Not happiness, nostalgia, sadness, or anger. Not anything with a word commonly associated with it – so you need to use imagery and experience to convey that feeling. Think first of the surroundings, because the atmosphere of a memory is often as important as the events of it. Describe the surroundings so they become a part of the event, and use active images and precise verbs to make the atmosphere act out the emotion you’re trying to convey.
Look through poems, a dictionary, a novel (any interesting source of words) for verbs that strike you – strange, specific, or particularly lively verbs. Make a list of at least 5, then work them into a poem. Build a few images from the similarities or contrasts between the verbs.