Sunday, July 15, 2007

What is the difference between poetry and prose?

My dentist asked this when I explained that the poetry I wrote was free verse, not rhymed or in specific poetic “feet.” It’s a good question, and I am sure that it has been answered better than I was able to do in the dentist chair between cleaning and rinsing! But here are the things I thought of:

* Poetry is about rhythm, even in free verse, the poet is thinking with a beat and pauses.

* Poetry uses the space on a page differently than prose. Symbols and punctuation enter into the poet's toolbox.

* Poetry is more compact and condensed in meaning than prose, it’s like a chef created a “reduction” of prose, making the flavor more intense!

* Poetry is about an emotional tone. Even very abstract poems carry a distinct emotional tone.

* I have always liked the admonition, variously attributed, that you know when you read a good poem because it feels like the top of your head blew off. Wow!


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