Are you interested in submitting entries in our HubPatron of the Arts contest, but unsure of whether to submit poetry or prose? Perhaps some clear delineation from Nellieanna, a HubPages poet and judge on the contest’s poetry panel, can help you out.
In the following interview, Nellieanna dishes on the differences between prose and poetry, plus serves up some excellent advice to poets who are just getting started. I hope our exchange inspires you to have a go at writing poetry- no matter how new to the format you may be!
When did you first start writing poetry?
When I was 12, I wrote a lovely poem. Most of that one has been lost except my memory of it, but it was the first poem I recall writing. I loved to read and recite poetry from a young age, and always had creative outlets for expressing impressions and ideas. Once they began to formulate into poetry, it never stopped.
Poems come in so many different shapes and sizes- what would you say is the key differentiator between poetry and prose?
To me, poetry must have what I call “music” and must express personal experiences of life in a manner which touches the heart and thrills the senses. If it fails to delight – or – worse – if it offends the senses, anything else it presents cannot save it from being mere prose or bad poetry. Poetry may use the simplest things as subjects, but it must express what the poet feels about them rather than just reporting or explaining what happened. Poetry is best expressed in concise, simple words and lines, though it can be more oblique or complicated, so long as its essence is in the feelings it expresses and communicates. Rhyming may occur within or at the ends of lines, or it may simply be implied by its own music or rhythm. Poetry’s beauty comes from how well it communicates the personal nature within and of it.
Prose is, – well, simply prosaic, as best defined in:
having the style or diction of prose; lacking poetic beauty : prosaic language can’t convey the experience.
commonplace; unromantic : the masses were too preoccupied by prosaic day-to-day concerns.
Prose is used to communicate facts ranging from the mundane to the highly specialized, such as scientific. It is used to report events, explain processes, give instructions, tell stories. It may employ forms used in poetry, but its purpose is dealing in objective facts rather than touching upon or stirring writers’ or readers’ subjective life relationships or experiences. Prose’s value comes from how well it communicates factual information.
Prose is like a photograph of something. Poetry is like an artist’s painting of it.
What inspires your work?
My writing is touched off by a sense of something stirring within me or observed around me which ignites my senses or ideas about it. It is like an experience of caressing and feeling the words to convey my response to whatever it is. It’s seldom done deliberately, as in, “I think I’ll write a poem about. . . ” The “inspiration” almost “does itself” when I simply allow it and follow through by recording it.
A little background: My most prolific poetry writing occurred when I greatly needed to have a way to freely express myself, especially to and for myself, during an extremely difficult time when “I” was in jeopardy of being “lost”. Writing poetry served to keep ‘me’ intact and literally was my companion and confidante.
As it flowed forth during those difficult times, seldom were gloom or struggle expressed, because that was not my nature and it most needed to express me, rather than describe difficult circumstances surrounding me, which needed no further expression! The result was that it captured and preserved my sensitivity toward nature and love of ideas, so they remained alive and growing, where I could refer back when needing to find ‘me in there’. I think this may be a reason my poetry touches and relates to others. It’s from the heart and ‘close to the bone’, so it resonates at a deep, human level; – a lovely by-product which I didn’t plan or anticipate.
When you sit down to write a poem, do you go through any particular process?
I have to smile. The times I’ve ever “sat down to write a poem” without just having to rush to grab pen and paper to capture it as it poured forth and before it escaped, well, I could probably count those instances of my worst poems on one hand!
As a judge on the poetry panel of the HubPatron of the Arts contest, what will you be looking for in entries?
I will look for authenticity, originality, that ‘music’ I’ve mentioned, real feelings and ideas as experienced by the poet, as well as lack of what spoils any writing: triteness. Good vocabulary, proper grammar and spelling should be taken for granted in the “paintbox” of anyone aspiring to write, like brushes and paints for an artist. But if everything else in a poem ‘rings true’, some ‘poetic license’ up to a point can be forgiven.
What advice would you give to someone who has never written a poem before… but would like to have a go at it?
I would simply advise that person to let it flow from within, to not force it. Trying too hard tends to produce either stale and prosaic and/or too-flowery and tiresome results.
If one but really listens to one’s quiet- even raging- thoughts and allows the full array of one’s feelings to tune into and express the music lurking in them, and then records it in accurate, appealing words, the results will ‘ring true’ and qualify as poetry.
One sees far too many stiff and tortured results of too much effort and not enough sensitivity. That’s a shame because I think everyone has sparkling poetry wanting to be expressed in such moments of feeling, just bursting to caress your own truest responses to life within and around you. So stop, listen and capture it before it escapes, even if you must pull over to the side of the road and jot it down on a paper bag or back of an envelope. Know that you CAN dazzle us with it! Yes, YOU!
For more information about the HubPatron of the Arts contest, have a look at the official contest page.