Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why Poetry=Better Prose


I have been writing poetry ever since I can remember and before I really even knew what it was.  Only recently did I delve into the world of novel writing.  When I did, it was exhilarating.  You mean I get to describe in drawn-out detail all my characters’ thoughts, emotions, sensations, tiny infinitesimal movements, etc.?  But then I reached page thirty of boring description and backstory and got stuck.  I stared at the blinking cursor on the screen like a Neanderthal for days.  It was like writers’ block times a hundred.  So, how did I get over it, you ask?

I wrote poetry.

Lots of it.  I put the novel aside and relished in the focus of writing a finite poem.  And it helped SO MUCH. 

Poetry is on a much smaller scale than fiction and requires more focus.  You have to be very selective about your words to stay within the structure of the poem.  And it is usually about a very specific idea or moment.  When writing a novel, it is so easy to get lost in the moment and forget where you are going in the story until later on.  Then you have to go back and sort through the mess a hundred times to tidy it up. 

A poem has a set structure that you must constantly be aware of during the process.  And yes, I am aware that there is such a thing as free verse poetry that does not conform to rhyming or scheme of any kind.  Even then, you must be resourceful and think of many different ways to say things before deciding on the one that works with the theme.

Another aspect that is extremely helpful is that, in order to write a good poem, you must fail.  Many times over.  To make the most impact, you must try out word after word after word until you can settle on the most dynamic.  You must write entire lines that you find beautiful and are proud of and then cross them out because they don’t fit right.  What you learn from this is how to work through the writers’ block and come out the other side, ready to write again. 

So if you are like me and experience writers’ block more often than you would like to admit, my advice is this: write a poem.  A sonnet, limerick, rondeau, or sestina could be exactly what you need to tone your writing muscles and become a lean, mean, writing machine. 

Happy poeming, everyone!