Poetry and Prose…

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Many great novelists, authors of novellas, and short story writers begin as poets. There’s a reason. There are probably many, but here are some quick thoughts. Not all poetry is about emotions. In fact poetry can be (and certainly has been) about literally everything from chickens to lovemaking to nature and death. But good poetry always carries feeling, always packs a punch (a firm wallop), and displays the ability to zoom in closely on a topic to provide uncommon illumination. 

Poetry affords some other interesting exercises. It teaches us how to examine topics from new angles and how to really dissect them. And since poetry relies so heavily on execution in a small space it forces you to be very critical of every word you put to paper. Writing poetry makes you critical, develops your eye and your ear (for rhythm and sound), and forces the writer to consider every syllable written. 

Poetry can also tell a story and many poets have used the poetic free form to tell a story similar to something you might experience in flash fiction. Poetry teaches the practitioner to follow the heartbeat like a trail of breadcrumbs to the heart of what you wish to communicate. Poetry, for all its beauty, teaches a writer how to be direct. 

Poetry in prose (and I’m not talking about a poem in a novel, but rather the use of poetic language as prose) enhances a story in novel form. Likewise, prosaicness can enhance a poem. The contrast in writing forms can create beauty. 

But, in my opinion, it is the lesson around selectivity which is most valuable to the prose writer. Choose your words carefully, avoid common adages and sayings when you can select something creative, unique, and yours. No two words are perfect synonyms. Pick the word that best communicates your meaning and choose the combination of words which best generate positive rhythm and flow. Sometimes you may have to compromise between the two.  

Finally, employ emotion. I have sometimes realized that I can only write poetry well when I am in turmoil. That is not necessarily true, nor is that true for everyone. I tend to write from a place of deep emotion and my poetry tends to ring more true and honest when I am in touch with my current emotional state. But you will learn that in the doing!


Roman Newell

Graphic Compositions:
by: Darlene Carroll

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