Jun 1, 2009 by

I surprised myself by writing poetry today. I started with prose, but the cadence of the sentence distracted me for a moment.

She follows with unfocused eyes

the lazy paths of dragonflies;

the mazy walk beneath the trees;

the hazy winding bumblebees

Lack of capitalisation and use of semi-colons as only punctuation deliberate. I’m being avant-garde.

The most difficult thing about poetry for me is stopping; I could add another couple of lines to this off the top of my head, and probably write another verse, but I think it would be a worse poem for it. For example, the below is nice on its own. It took a long time for me to shake the conviction that it needed many more lines to be “a proper poem”, but I’ve learnt to leave well alone now.

In what world walk you?

I walk where sky is darkening blue.

Wait you for me, or I for you?

Anyway, the BBC’s had a couple of good articles on poetry recently, what with the whole Professor of Poetry scandal. My favourite, I think, is why democracy doesn’t work for such posts.

I’m not generally a poet. Occasionally something will sound nice and I’ll write it down, or I’ll have a visual moment and know that certain words should be laid out a certain way, but it’s not something I generally pursue. Derek Des Anges credits poetry for her awesome prose (she didn’t phrase it like that, but it’s true). The skills acquired writing poetry – word choice skills some prose writers overlook, like rhythm, sound, and syntax – make for very well-crafted prose.

So, if you’re finding your prose feels dull or pedestrian, try writing some poetr; try rewriting it as poetry. Because the choices you have to make are subtly different, you’ll start looking at the words differently, and hopefully hone them a little more finely.

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