Poetry Vs Prose: When They are Different, When They are Similar and How to Use Them.

poetry vs prose cover pic

All the written content in the world can be broadly divvied into two categories; Poetry and prose. Every written content in the world has a message to convey, be it poetry or prose. For writers, the goal is always the same; Getting the message out in the form of written words. This communication of the message however can be done by different methods and these methods can affect how your message is received. We will dive into the poetry vs prose and see what do these two mean and how can one use them effectively to make their writing better. 

We can see poetry as a type of modified prose with some extra attributes. We can also view prose as poetry that has been stripped off of those extra attributes. John Wain famously said, “Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking.” Let’s look into the details of the intricate difference between the two.

Poetry Vs Prose: The Framework.

The framework of any literary work is the first thing that is visible to the reader. You can see that this article is a written article with short paragraphs divided into major sections. In poetry vs prose, the framework is one of the distinguishing factors too.

The prose is the written work that is formed by sentences, paragraphs without any metrical structure. Do note that I am not talking about the content of the prose, but the structure. The prose is very straightforward with direct meaning. Prose word comes from the Latin word that means straight forward. You can even say that this whole article is prose, not poetry. 

Poetry is the more aesthetically pleasing and better sounding form of literature. The framework of poetry is very easily visible with its stanzas and line breaks that give it a different look and sound. There is no defined guidelines about the framework of poetry. Poetry can have hundreds of frameworks i.e., each poem can sound and look very different from each other but incase of prose, they’re always the same. There are different types of poetry like lyrical, narrative, ballad, sonnet, haiku, etc and each of them has a unique framework that distinguishes them. 

Poetry Vs Prose: The Expression of Emotion

Any form of writing expresses emotion. It is because writing is the condensed form of speech and speech is driven by emotions and thoughts. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, every written content wants to deliver emotion, a message to the readers. Poetry and prose offer to be the carrier of these emotions. It is your choice you want the emotion to be received.

Poetry Vs Prose
Emotions, Image: Wordsrum

When it comes to prose, your emotion is very direct. You mean what you want to convey, without any layering. For example. 

There was a beauty, a very intriguing beauty about her presence. She made me forget about all the inconveniences of my life. That was her aura, so bright that it made me forget about the darkness that lay within. 

In the example above, I mean what I am saying. It is about seeing a girl and loving her presence with a reason as to why I love her presence. Simple and straightforward. This was a way of conveying my emotions in the form of paragraphs. Now let’s see the same message and emotion getting conveyed in the form of a poem. 

The darkest places that lay 
Somewhere inside me has lost their way 
Just by the sheer shine of her 
And I am where she stays
Never have I ever been so lost 
So happy, I’d like to stay the same way. 

Here my emotion and message are much more layered, conveyed in the form of rhyming lines. Instead of saying that there are some dark parts in my life which I forgot about when I saw her, I say that The darkest places that lay, somewhere inside me have lost their way. This indirect expression of emotion is what makes the poem feel so different. 

So to recap this whole section, if the prose is like a cluster of juicy grapes, poetry is like fine, aged wine.

The presence of rhyme and the lack of it. 

Another feature the distinguishes poetry and prose is the presence of rhyme. Poetry usually has a metrical structure that often rhymes. These rhyming patterns can have different forms like a b a b or a a b b. 

Poetry Vs prose rhyme
Image: Wordsrum

A rhyming pattern is something proses lack. But sometimes, even poems lack a rhyming pattern. Poetry has many different forms and some poetry forms don’t have a rhyming scheme at all. Freeverse poetry is like that. But even if a poem is lacking a rhyming scheme, it still feels like poetry because it is written with that intention.

An example of free verse poetry: 

I looked at her eyes, trying to find love
She too kept trying a lot.
We failed.
We smiled. 

If I were to make this into prose, here is how it would look. 

I looked into her eyes because I wanted to find the same thing she was trying to find in my eyes. But we did find the same thing, it wasn’t what we were looking for, it was what actually was. A smile filled with pain was the only way of conveying our failure. 

This is how similar prose and poetry are, yet how different they look and feel.

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Poetry v Prose: The Essence.

Poetry is isolation whereas prose is accumulation. When writing poetry, you have to condense the emotion into a small and powerful form. You need to isolate the unnecessary explanation and the words that obstruct the poem from achieving form. This is what makes the poem feel like a poem. A poem is the imaginative and processed expression of emotion.
Prose, as mentioned above, is about accumulation. This is where you describe your emotion in a lengthy and descriptive way without caring about the form or the structure of your writing. The prose is a raw expression of emotion that tries to be full of details. Where poetry is artistic, proses are mechanical and simple.

Pen on a notebook

Note that the content of the prose has nothing to do with the definition of it. I’ll explain this with an example. 

I walked into the place with morbid curiosity. A part of my deranged mind sought it and a part of my sane mind wanted nothing to do with it. And yet I kept looking for it, until I found it. The reflection of myself in the mirror. 

Or

I walked into the place, seeking to see what a part of me did not want to see. I kept looking until finally, I found it. It was my own reflection in the mirror. 

As you can see, both of these are prose. One is more detailed, the other is very barebones. 

Poetry and Prose, Mixed. 

All these words I wrote were explaining the difference and details about Poetry vs prose. Now let’s see what we get if we mix both of these into a brilliant concoction. When poetry and prose are mixed, we get something called prose poetry. 

roses on a poetry book

Prose poetry is when the prose is written with the essence of poetry. This includes the lucid expression of emotions and condensing the words to be more impactful. The structure and rhyming (sometimes) are missing in these, but they have a unique feel of poetry served in a simple, non-structured plate. A great example of prose poetry is “So You Want to Be a Writer” by Charles Bukowski. Here’s a link so that you can read it for yourself. Some other poets who write prose poetry are Brendan Connell, Paul Dickey, Stephen Dunn. William Shakespeare was also known to switch back and forth from poetry and prose,.

This was all about poetry vs prose. I hope you got the difference between the two and the product of the union of these two. You can add both to improve the feel of your literary work. Every word written is prose, but sometimes, we also come across some poetry too.

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