How Poetry Can Help Your Prose



We often fall into the trap of thinking poetry and prose are distinct forms of writing that cannot come together in the same piece. But there is so much that we can learn from each to strengthen and expand the creative scope of the other.


I often hear prose writers say that they don’t write poetry because they are intimidated or simply don’t know where to start, and I often hear poets say the same things about writing narrative fiction. This binary thinking limits what we can do with the styles of writing we are most comfortable with.


As someone who writes a lot of poetry, I have come to realize the positive influence this has had on my other longer fiction and nonfiction works. So, here’s my case for writing more poetry even if it is not your primary or preferred form of expression:

Incorporating poetry into your writing routines can positively influence the style and quality of the language of your prose. Writing poetry emphasizes word choice, rhythm, and vivid description. All of these elements that are so central to poetry are also important elements of narrative fiction. I find that because of this, poetry is both a form of creative self-expression and a practical exercise that helps to strengthen my writing generally.


Word Choice


Because poetry tends to be shorter and more succinct than prose, each word counts! Shorter lines with distinct line breaks and/or spacing draw attention to every element that the author chooses to include. Words are evaluated not only for their obvious meaning but for their sound and layers of interpretation.


Poets try to eliminate any unnecessary words and judge what really needs to be in each line. Practicing this sparing use of words by writing poetry can help us craft more intentional prose. We can ask ourselves what is truly necessary to include and what ultimately doesn’t serve the stories we are trying to tell.


Rhythm


While poetry does not need to have a set meter (and mostly doesn’t anymore), the rhythm of each line is nonetheless still important. Poets focus on the rhythmic flow of the poem—emphasizing the sound of each sentence, word, and syllable. Writing poetry can help us pay attention to the musicality of language which we can then use to add beauty and lyricism to our longer fiction and non-fiction prose.


Description


Poetry uses description not only to set the scene and provide context but to add metaphorical and symbolic significance. While narrative fiction does this as well, it is very apparent in poetry because of the condensed format.


Poetry also focuses on vivid imagery and description as a starting place to build off of. An idea for a poem could be sparked by a striking image, event, or object that then makes its way into the poem