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:

prosaic |prōˈzāik|


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!

[Thanks, Nellieanna!]

For more information about the HubPatron of the Arts contest, have a look at the official contest page.


Posted by:HubPages Admin

11 replies on “HubPatron of the Arts Judge Nellieanna Expounds the Differences of Poetry and Prose

  1. If one is familiar with the poetry of Nellieanna, the words expressed in this interview would be simply expected. She writes with “the music”, as she calls it, of the true poet and it rings through in every verse she offers forth. Those who submit poetry for the contest will truly have the honor of being judged by a well-qualified writer in this genre. HubPages is quite lucky to have such a talent as her offering her work on the site. WB

  2. My sweetest Nellieanna and fellow poetic Queen. I am humbled to be here in your presence and other talented poets who will share in the judging of fine poetry that will be forthcoming.

    I put out the message a couple of times for fellow Hubbers to come and read this exquisite interview, so having said that, this Pilgrim has saddled his mount and come in to be again inspired by your beautiful words. I am exhilarated as I share one of Emily’s poems with you here, I know you will recognize it, you my dear always lead me into another place.

    ” Exhilaration is the Breeze
    That lifts us from the ground,
    And leaves us in another place
    Whose statement is not found
    Returns us not, but after time
    We soberly descend,
    A little newer for the term
    Upon enchanted ground.

    I will be back for a second and third read and another comment to be left, I am not finished with you quite yet:-) lol

  3. Hi Nellieanna. I like how you describe the difference between prose and poetry. “Music” is a perfect word. And noting the avoidance of being trite is great advice. So many people do that and others twist sentences and words any which way to make a rhyme. When poetry is good, it can be unforgettable and even life changing.
    How nice to get to know you better. I am looking forward to the contest. Regards, Hyph.

  4. Thanks Simone, for interviewing Nellieanna on the difference between prose and poetry. We can all learn a lot from her, as her poems are absolutely exquisite. I’m looking forward to participate in the contest. Just still not 100% sure of the number of entries allowed per category. What I understood as ‘for the entire contest’ someone else’s understood as ‘per day’. On my way to check again.

    Nellieanna, all my thanks to you for sharing your secrets….. LU

  5. Reading this marvelous interview made me want to fly down to Texas for tea and conversation. I’m looking forward to the contest!

  6. This was a beautiful and informative interview.
    l completely identified with the ..´rush to write it down before l forget…´ syndrome.
    l would love to enter the competition but am wary of the rule of a 500 word explanation of my poetry.
    l´ll just have to read all the others and hope to improve.

  7. Great interview with many specific differences between poetry and prose. I like the advice you gave to let it flow out instead of forcing the poem. Am looking forward to reading the poetry entries in the contest even though I don’t write poetry.

  8. Nellieanna I love this quote from you

    “Prose is like a photograph of something. Poetry is like an artist’s painting of it.”

    When I write I usually have that photograph flash before me, I can see it so clearly and then I play in my paint box and start to mix the colors to spread out on my palette of white before me, which turn into verse. Although I am not much into rhyme much of my poetry seems to blend itself with some rhyme threaded through it. I like you write from my soul, I feel and in some cases actually lived it. When it comes from our hearts and souls it seems to become more effective for our readers, they can associate with what we are conveying, feeling, creating. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words with us, they are music to this poets ears, heart and soul.

  9. Your lovely replies are such encouragement to me! Thank you. I just now found the interview after I asked Simone to help me find it!

    I’m so looking forward to the poetry in the contest! It will be an honor to have a say in the results!

    Hugs – Nellieanna

  10. By the way, please don’t be intimidated by needing to write the explanation of your poetry. That wouldn’t be a technical explanation probably, but can be your own sense of it, a bit about its mood or background, perhaps something of how it was inspired or what inspired it. I think of those kinds of things in connection with my poems, just in reliving those moments when they were written. Iit’s a chance to share some of that, which will enhance the reader’s own impression of it and help to understand it too — not to break it down into outlines or diagrams! 🙂

  11. Nellieanna, both you and Ken are super hubbers for taking on the judging of this contest – you both have impressive bodies of work here, and much to offer in wisdom and wit.

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