What Can Prose Writers Learn From Poets?

Poets and prose writers often receive different "instructions" on how to write well, and are encouraged to read widely in their own genre, but I would suggest that prose writers can vastly improve their craft by turning to poetry. Poets focus on imagery and concision – two tools that make immensely better prose writing too. Of course, these tools aren’t used in the same way, but reading and even writing poetry can strengthen a prose writer’s ability. Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar is a perfect example of this. Plath is best known as a poet, but her novel is unparalleled. While reading it, I was struck by the poetic use of language and economy of words (why use twenty when you could use five?). What other ways can prose writers improve from reading/writing poetry?

  • Good idea, especially about concision. I've written prose for years and still struggle with that. Poetry sometimes helps. – Stephanie M. 6 years ago
  • Fusing prose and poetry together definitely has some merits and would make for a solid article. Determining/clarifying what type of prose writers would be helpful, as there are creative writers, fan fiction, bloggers, etc, that would likely claim their already employed vivid language that derives from poetry. Good topic though! – mazzamura 6 years ago
  • Poetry often has a closer focus on form that can be useful for prose writers. Different poetic forms have particular histories, and are adapted or kept to for particular purposes, much more so (I find) than in most Western prose. That's something that prose writers can learn -- an appreciation or awareness of form. – belindahuang18 6 years ago
  • There's a Judith Ortiz Cofer essay called "But Tell It Slant: From Poetry to Prose and Back Again" which refers to this idea. She discusses how one can create a better or more economical prose piece if it is "summarized" in poetry first, and the poem is then used as a framework for the prose. – ThomasB 5 years ago

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