Cross-applying Poetry Fundamentals to Prose
I’ve been super busy this week with socializing and job searching, but I have been trying to maintain this blog on a semi-regular basis. When I’m lazy or there’s no interesting news about to comment on, I’ve decided to default to a good autobiographical life advice post.
For those of you that don’t know, I used to write poetry. I never thought it was that good–more like broken prose with clever enjambment. (I never did write a sonnet that I was fully happy with.) There were some cheap PoMo tricks, like line breaking on a word with multiple meanings, that I used very often back then and still do, to some extent, in my prose. But I haven’t written anything that was more poetry than than prose in recent years since non-fiction has consumed my soul.
I will testify that studying classic and modern poetry when I was a teenager has greatly improved my general writing skills as an adult. English profs know it well: When you start analyzing poetry on a functional level below interpretation and meaning, you start paying attention to literary elements like syntax, punctuation, and rhythm. And all writing starts to “flow” better.
Alliteration and assonance all over everything. < See what I did there with “alliteration” and “all?” There are also “v” sounds in “over” and “everything” that create a cohesive sound pattern. (Repetition of consonant sounds is called “consonance.”) These techniques and literary devices work, whether you’re consciously aware of them or not, and this is generally how people judge a work as “good”–based on these literary devices embedded in historical standards.
Check out those links that I hyperlinked above if you don’t know anything about poetic devices. If you’re a writer that wants to get better, and you haven’t already, start paying attention to the poetic devices that you already use.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
[Edit: Sorry, I had to manually fix the HTML since it formatted weird after I prematurely submitted.]
the point where peripheral vision
blurs into her inverted gut
and she cries about the virus of society
she’s catching tonight
the way she’ll waste
bootlaces in urinals
to see what shape they make
when they float
and chalk scrawled
half past noon,
on the changing station
a graffiti-fied gaffe)
“this is the art
of perfecting denial,”
before passing to the right
because she’s just that much
of an insidious
like the festering manifestoes
of bad hair dye jobs
and thrift store sweaters)
it’s Sunday now; she’s alone in a crowd.
the children will be coming home
for Christmas and she’s
let the cat out again.