Poetry for the Prose Writer

I can hear you even now, reader mind, declaring that a proser could never be a poet! That said forms are wildly different! That hysteria is fun! I joke, but we do all know that there is a thin undercurrent of rivalry between poetry and prose. What I want to tell you is that there doesn’t need to be rivalry here. It is as natural for a poet to dabble in prose as it is for the other to dabble in poetry. After all, they are all words.


There is a lot of time spent discussing why poetry and prose are similar and different and why poetry is oh-so-hard and prose is oh-so-pedestrian in both camps. We don’t want to delve into that kind of rabble rousing discussion, though. What we want to look at are the words. Both mediums aim to communicate, and they have very similar desires in regard to the what of communication whether it be love, hate, passion (always to be defined separately  from love, I assure you!), sadness or any other engrossing emotion. It is in the how that our writers create difference. When we pare away the novel, and against it the poem, we will find however the firm, comforting embrace of a narrative. The complex combination of the two in prose poetry is somewhat of a miracle in structure and intent. Prose poetry combines the artistic license of the poet with the narrative structure of the prose, we are allowed to have the most beautiful and often whimsical stories without any of the rigidity of linear story format.


Poetry is not terrifying, it is a challenge for the prose writer like no other. You are asked to write the awe-inspiring six word story, and you do this with relish! What is a poem but one of the shortest stories you will ever write?


You want to tell me that you have nothing to say, that poets are always saying something. I will return that you are forever saying something, because your body and your mind communicate constantly. There is nothing you do which does not say. Do not be frightened of poetry, it is a beast which is kind to the mind, kind to the muse. It understands that we are not on tap, and so when it comes, it steals away everything around us until we create (I pulled over just today to scribble two lines of poem before they were lost to me). Once it has stolen us and we have written, it leaves again, letting the air back into the husk of our bodies until we are full with the knowledge that we made something. Poetry is fickle but lets you revel in every breath.


What I am trying to tell you, you who are reading this so very kindly, is that you should try poetry. You should also try prose. I have never learnt more thoroughly than I did when moving from prose to poetry; my writing was clunky and too suggestive, I told what I wanted to communicate and held my reader’s hand. After time I became aware of the change in the form and elegance of my poetry – and it will continue to change, to my delighted dismay. Now I dabble in prose and see my lines sleek and organised, the minimalism of poetry has defined stronger elements of my prose.  So mix your mediums, please, if only for me and only this once*.


Just a moment more of your time, of your words and your breath, that is all we ask today.


*You have my permission to shout at me if it doesn’t work out! We’ll shout at each other until our poems are perfect.

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1 Response

  1. Heather says:

    As a dabbler of both, I can definitely confirm that while the two media are distinctly different, they do impact on one another in wonderful ways. Poetry can teach a prose writer the art of brevity and how to tighten their words until they are able to convey years of history and culture in a single scene. This is particularly needful for those writers of fantasy or history where world building is so essential.

    On the flip side, prose teaches a poet about the art of storytelling and the need for voice. Poets sometimes get so lost in the flow of language that they forget to give their poem plot and purpose and instead leave it flopping about like a fish out of water.

    I promise you now, the strongest writers are those who have tried and learned from a variety of media before settling.

    Lovely article, my dear!

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