Why Poetry is Important for non-Poets
–Sandra Kischuk [email@example.com]
Some writers self-identify as poets . . . and others are absolutely certain that poetry 1) is no longer significant or relevant in today’s writing world, 2) does not interest them (nor anyone else they know), and/or 3) has nothing to offer for the kind of writing they do. After all, when is the last time you read a novel in rhyming couplets?
According to wikipedia:
Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry)
Non-poets often envision those other people (poets) as writers of an archaic style, writers who have not mastered the “true” elements of writing–plot (story arc), character development, and setting, and writers who are not “connected” with the real world.
Not so. Writing, at its foundation, requires words.
Poetry is about three things:
1) the mastery of words–selecting the best words to express a thought, and stringing those words together in phrases and sentences that capture and amplify meaning;
2) economy of words–stripping away the non-essential and knowing when to “stop,” and
3) balance–learning to create a work with internal consistency, where words, phrases, cadence, voice, and images work together to build the work . . . where the writer neither “skips over the important parts” nor “delves too deeply into things that don’t matter.”
Poetry provides a disciplinary framework which, well-learned, can be applied to any other form of writing. Writers who read enough poetry to understand how it works learn to eliminate:
1) overwriting–too many words, too flowery in expression (good poetry is NOT flowery),
2) sloppiness–poetry’s word economy requires precise word selection and phrase construction. This discipline will make your narrative writing crisp and energized.
3) off-topic wandering–sometimes we get so caught up in the flow of words, we write a lot. That is okay, because we often discover what the writing is really about. However, in our editing, we have to understand that any words and phrases that do not contribute to the story must be stripped away.
4) awkward phrasing–the order of your words can affect both meaning and impact. Awkward, convoluted phrasing can create confusion and irritate your reader.
As a shorthand version of writing, poetry encapsulates the greatest meaning in the fewest words . . . and provides a learning shortcut to stylistic mastery of other writing forms. In plain words. read and practice writing poetry to strengthen ALL your writing skills. And no, it does not have to rhyme.