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Rossetti’s Poem and Painting: The Day-Dream

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
,1880, oil on canvas,, 62.5 in × 36.5 in, Victoria and Albert Museum

The thronged boughs of the shadowy sycamore
Still bear young leaflets half the summer through;
From when the robin ‘gainst the unhidden blue
Perched dark, till now, deep in the leafy core,
The embowered throstle’s urgent wood-notes soar
Through summer silence. Still the leaves come new;
Yet never rosy-sheathed as those which drew
Their spiral tongues from spring-buds heretofore.
Within the branching shade of Reverie
Dreams even may spring till autumn; yet none be
Like woman’s budding day-dream spirit-fann’d.
Lo! tow’rd deep skies, not deeper than her look,
She dreams; till now on her forgotten book
Drops the forgotten blossom from her hand.

The chalk sketch (1878) that The Day Dream was based on is held by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

About the author:

Portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti c. 1871, by George Frederic Watts

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882), was an English poet, illustrator, painter, and translator, and member of the Rossetti family. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement.

Rossetti’s art was characterized by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. His early poetry was influenced by John Keats and William Blake. His later poetry was characterized by the complex interlinking of thought and feeling, especially in his sonnet sequence, The House of Life. Poetry and image are closely entwined in Rossetti’s work. He frequently wrote sonnets to accompany his pictures, spanning from The Girlhood of Mary Virgin and Astarte Syriaca, while also creating art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by the celebrated poet Christina Rossetti, his sister.

Source: Wikipedia.

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Aphantasia – No mind’s eye

Photo by Manuel bonadeo on Unsplash

  • Aphantasia is the inability to visualize, otherwise known as image-free imagination; the absence of mental imagery
  • About 2 percent of the population can’t visualize.

Because of aphantasia, I’m not able to picture things in my mind

It wasn’t until his twenties that Tom Ebeyer realized that his brain worked differently than others. That’s when he discovered that there is such a thing as …

More resources

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[Book Review] Stars Before Bedtime

The subtitle of this book is incorrect. It reads: “A mindful fall-asleep book.”  It has only a few mindfulness practices but concentrates on visualizing, imagining, and relaxation experiences and techniques much more.

Stars Before Bedtime is a short, big picture book at 31 pages, meant to be read to young readers.

The limited text packs in a lot. First, we have the core theme of going to sleep, but this is planted inside the practices and not overly highlighted. The real emphasis is the book’s introduction to some of the night-sky constellations and their mythological characters. 

This is where visualizing and imaging come in. Readers are challenged to visualize each character, its attributes, and sometimes its movements. In addition, readers are asked to assume some of these traits as being their own. Here is an example that involves the constellation Aquila (the eagle) and constellation Corvus (the crow):

“Stretch your arms out as wide as you can, like wings, and take a deep breath in. As you breathe out, picture yourself soaring across the night sky like an eagle. With your eyes still closed, place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath in. Fill your belly with air so it gets big and fat like Corvus’s did when he filled it with fruit. Can you feel the breath there? Now breathe out, let it go, and feel the air leaving your tummy. Do this three times.”

The accompanying illustrations are simple in style and color but get the job done. There is enough to convey the central myth around each of the 22 constellations mentioned in the text.

Each two-page spread can keep children (or adults) busy for a few weeks if time is taken to seriously learn and master each technique in Stars Before Bedtime.

Stars Before Bedtime
By Claire Grace and Dr. Jessamy Hibberd, illustrated by Hannah Tolson

Copyright 2020.
Publisher: Quarto Publishing
Ages: 3-6 (but adults would do well to practice everything covered in the book, too).

Source of biographical details: Amazon book sales page

“Dr. Jessamy Hibberd is a London-based Chartered Clinical Psychologist, author, and commentator. With over 15 years in clinical practice, she runs a clinic where she works one-to-one with people experiencing common mental health problems. She is the co-author of the international best-selling THIS BOOK WILL series, including This Book Will Make You Sleep.”

“Irish-born Claire Grace studied English and Philosophy before becoming a commissioning editor of children’s books. She is the author of many books for children and has worked on a collection of award-winning titles. She now lives in London, where she spends her time writing, drinking coffee, and dog spotting.” 

“Originally from a small town near Leeds, Hannah Tolson moved the long, long way down to Falmouth, Cornwall, to study illustration by the sea. After graduating in 2013, she still lives and continues to illustrate there.”

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How Vivid is Your Imagery?

Since the later 1880s, imagery has been studied formally within university settings. Researchers have collected self-reports of the imagery experience by interviews, diaries, recordings, and questionnaires. Today we look at how these research questionnaires can help us sharpen our imagery skills and track our progress. We will start with the most current tool, the VVIQ, but I will cover the earlier questionnaires on which this tool is based in the coming months.

The Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ and VVIQ2)

In 1973 the British psychologist, David Marks, published a questionnaire concentrating on how well people could see imagery. This questionnaire, and its 1995 revision, has been used by researchers for more than a thousand published studies.

Its approach is simple. Ask a participant to visualize an image and rank how vivid the image appears in their mind on a 1 to 5 scale. Once the participant has completed the questionnaire, they are asked to close their eyes and each image is reintroduced, and the participant ranks the vividness.

Here is the scale used in the VVIQ2. The rankings are simple and obvious. At one end of the range is not seeing imagery, and at the other end, experiencing imagery of great clarity.

  1. No image at all. You only “know” that you are thinking of an object
  2. Vague and dim
  3. Moderately clear and vivid
  4. Clear and reasonably vivid
  5. Perfectly clear and as vivid as normal vision

3 Ways to Put the VVIQ to Use

These rankings can be quite useful outside of research to help us sharpen our imagery practice.

Use rankings as a ladder to go further into your imagery experience

When we begin an imagery session, most of us start at a ranking of 1, “No image at all. You only know you are thinking of an object.” Deeper imagery work begins at a rank of 3 (“moderately clear and vivid”), so we know that we have to find a way to get from 1 to 3. Relaxing a bit more can help. Whatever technique we use, we will know soon enough if it is working.

If, after about a minute or two, you haven’t moved along in the rankings, you can try something else. I suggest following any image that comes up. Since the image popped up on its own, clearly, it is ready to be experienced to a deeper degree. Follow the image until you find yourself at least at a level 3 ranking, and then bring up the imagery you are interested in exploring.

If you feel too unsettled energetically or emotionally, you can try concentrating on a static inner image (i.e., a coin, a book, a tree) for as long it takes to settle down. Or you can tap a memory and let a memory pull you into images. Keep experimenting to determine what works best for you.

With practice and close observation of our imagery experience in each session, you will get a feel for your movement up the ladder of rankings and you will be able to direct yourself along its course.

See how your vividness develops with practice

With daily practice, even just five minutes a session, your vividness will go up. To see your progress, give each session a ranking. You can give it a ranking at any point, beginning, middle, or end, but I suggest you rank your vividness shortly before you decide to finish up your session. This probably is the point at which you have reached good imagery engagement.

Find out how your vividness differs by what imagery you use

You can use David Mark’s VIQQ questionnaire images to detect if some imagery is more vivid than other imagery. He included 16 items in groups of 4 that test the vividness of nature, people, objects, and movement. I wish he had included basic conditions such as colors, lighting, and textures, but you can also try those. Marks suggests running through the list doing each one with eyes open, followed by going through the items with eyes closed.

  • Theme: Relative or Friend
  • For items 1 to 4, think of some relative or friend whom you frequently see (but who is not with you at present) and consider carefully the picture that comes before your mind’s eye
  • 1 The exact contour of the face, head, shoulders, and body.
  • 2* Characteristic poses of the head, attitudes of body, etc.
  • 3* The precise carriage, length of step, etc. in walking.
  • 4 The different colors worn in some familiar clothes.
  • Theme: Natural scene
  • For items 5 to 8, think of the sun and the sky.
  • 5* The sun is rising above the horizon into a hazy sky.
  • 6* The sky clears and surrounds the sun with blueness.
  • 7* Clouds. A storm blows up, with flashes of lightning.
  • 8* A rainbow appears.
  • Theme: Store
  • For items 9 thru 12, think of yourself at a store or a shop.
  • 9 The overall appearance of the shop from the opposite side of the road.
  • 10 A window display including colors, shapes, and details of individual items for sale.
  • 11 You are near the entrance. The color, shape, and details of the door.
  • 12* You enter the shop and go to the counter. The counter assistant serves you. Money changes hands.
  • Theme: Natural scene: Lake
  • For items 13 to 16, think of a country scene that involves trees, mountains, and a lake. Consider the picture that comes before your mind’s eye.
  • 13 The contours of the landscape.
  • 14 The color and shape of the trees.
  • 15 The color and shape of the lake.
  • 16*. A strong wind blows on the tree and on the lake causing waves.

* Eight of 16 items indicate activity or movement (marked *).

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Do Daily Memory Review for easy visualizing practice

An easy, no-fuss, and powerful way to practice visualizing is to take a few moments at the end of each day and run thru our memories of what we did and observed that day. We don’t have to go into every detail, just the highlights will do. A few minutes every day will soon produce big growth in our visualizing skills.

Amount of time: at least 2 minutes

What’s needed: Nothing

Location: Anywhere, anytime


1. Find a few moments when you can run something thru your mind. You don’t have to be in perfect silence or seclusion.

2. Bring up memories of what you did today. You can skip around the timeline or you can start your visualizing with the earliest thing you can remember work your way up to the present moment.

3. Visualize each memory.  When you have it, take a moment to sink into the event a bit. Feel yourself being there. Can you sense your movements? Sounds? 

4. Don’t knock yourself on working to remember everything you did or in every detail.

5. After a few minutes, finish up. Take a moment to acknowledge that you got some practice in for the day!

6. Do the same tomorrow.

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Build Your Imagery Library

Cultivating your own set of go-to imagery gives you a clear place to start your visualization-imagination work. Whenever and wherever you are, you can go to your bookcase and pull off the imagery you want for the moment. Practicing each of your library holdings and keeping them fresh and powerful.

How to Start Your Library

I will give you some starter imagery in a series of upcoming posts. You will get a mix of imagery that:

  • promotes rest and relaxation;
  • activates your curiosity and creativity; or other in-built skills
  • helps you in uncomfortable situations (hassles), emergencies, and during the challenges of living life.

I will give you the basic framework of what you want to do in each imagery set. You will need to fill in that structure with your own memories, experiences, poetic ideas, favorite images, and more. You will not be getting some highly canned guided imagery. Instead, you will customize everything and that process will make the imagery that much more powerful.

Start off slowly and work with one imagery structure.

You will need several sessions to collect and fully round out what you want to appear in your imagery.

After that you will need several more sessions to get comfortable with what you have.

This needs to be followed by more sessions so you can develop deep mastery of what you have developed so it will appear easily and rapidly.

Lastly, you will need to set up a system where you will remember you have these imagery in your library. The most common problem with any inner work techniques is that we forget to use them! Make a list, make a drawing, make something for each set you develop that reminds you, on a regular basis, that you have your imagery library. Better yet, practice each one at least once a week to keep it in your short-term memory.

Next: Look for the post: A Comfortable Place – Imagery