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.

If you’re a writer, it’s good to be consciously aware of these literary devices (not to be confused with the larger concept of literary techniques), so you can use them to your advantage.

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.]

Riddle Me Pinks…

Baby takes another hit,
she’s passed
the point where peripheral vision
blurs into her inverted gut
and she cries about the virus of society
she’s afraid
she’s catching tonight

Baby is an oxymoron,
murphy’s law on mute–

the way she’ll waste
bootlaces in urinals
to see what shape they make
when they float
bumblebee pinstripes
and chalk scrawled
half past noon,

on the changing station

(an ephemeral epithet,
a graffiti-fied gaffe)

Oh baby,
“this is the art
of perfecting denial,”
she’ll exhale
before passing to the right
because she’s just that much
of an insidious

(her palms drip
like the festering manifestoes
of bad hair dye jobs
and thrift store sweaters)

Doctor, Doctor, don’t bother
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.
Visual piece also from my angsty teen days:
(There were large callouses on my feet in high school, so the pins didn’t hurt.)

3 thoughts on “Cross-applying Poetry Fundamentals to Prose

  1. I’ve always been curious as to how to easily move consonance over from poetry to a longer form of prose writing. I have a story idea in mind where I need some common thread to tie together multiple universes, however despite my interest in using consonance, I’m not completely sure how to go about it.

    • Yeah, consonance is more of a sentence-to-sentence technique. But one thing that comes to mind for long-form would be associating Proper Names with alliteration or rhyme or complementary themes.

      I’m sure there’s linguists (and maybe advertisers) out there who know more about the unconscious process behind it all than I do.

      • It’s an interesting thought for sure. I’ve spent a lot of time in the process of writing both of my stories with creating a rich backstory for my characters, going so far as to research the connotations and meanings for each part of their full names in various languages to help add to the meaning. The problem is that with the new story, only one character remains constant throughout the entire story.

        I could see how associating the proper name with certain alliteration or rhyme themes could be helpful. I appreciate the input.

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