I have a quick confession to make before I dive in.
I HATED poetry writing assignments when I was in school. It wasn’t a medium I felt comfortable or confident in.
Yet, it is the one type of writing that EVERYONE learns to compose.
(Whether it’s good or not is a different story.)
Regardless of what you write, be it copywriting, research-intensive white pages, literary nonfiction, novels, blog posts, fanfiction erotica, your kid’s book report that he “forgot about” until bedtime the night before it’s due…
Um, forget that last part. No one actually does that… 😉
Poetry should be on your list of resources to absorb and practice.
Frankly, there’s a type of poetry for everyone.
Types of Poetry:
- Free Verse
- Epic Poems
Excluding Epics and Narratives, poetry is bite-sized for quick consumption.
Let’s face it, the vast majority of us don’t have the luxury to read as much as we used to.
So, Poetry is the perfect tool to improve your writing savvy, regardless of your predominant writing genre.
However, let’s be real for a second.
Writing poetry may very well not be your forte. At all. I get that.
I’m not saying you should share it with your social media universe. I know I won’t be sharing mine anytime soon. If ever, to be honest.
Nonetheless, it would be a shame to exclude poetry from our writing lives simply because it’s not a skill set we feel confident with.
You can’t grow if you never feel uncomfortable.
And it would be a greater tragedy to ignore poetry from your reading life altogether.
Poetry is an amazing resource for inspiration, and when used purposefully will strengthen your writing craft.
Good things come in small packages, my friend.
1. Poetry is a fast writing exercise that you can utilize anywhere.
Poetry is a writing lesson that gives you the most bang for your buck. And as a busy human, I’m ALL about the quick and easy. Or at least, it can be.
A Haiku is 3 lines. A Limerick is 5 lines. And if you don’t want to be beholden to any type of rules, free verse can be as long or as short as you want.
2. Poetry teaches us how to vary sentences in a lyrical manner.
Have you noticed that your favorite fiction works tend to flow almost like lyrics to a song?
This is intentional. It’s called Meter, and it’s one of the first things you learn about poetry.
Think Meter is used only in Poetry? Think again!
Many fiction writers infuse Meter into their Prose as a way of drawing in the reader at important plot points. About to heighten the stakes? Dropping a little red herring into the mix?
Giving your sentences a metered variation at critical moments forces the reader to pay magnified attention to the story.
Admit it: we all start to wander in a story from time to time, no matter how engrossing it may be.
This device will keep the reader engaged. Guaranteed.
3. Poetry is featured HEAVILY in fiction.
Whether it’s in the form of:
Epigraphs to set the tone for the story.
As seen in:
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Or as a way to introduce new chapters or characters, as Lewis Carol did with the Alice in Wonderland Duology.
Poetry can also be used to drive the plot.
In the form of a Prophesy, like we’ve seen in:
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
Used through a dialogue of character(s) quoting a passage from a poem (either that you created or from someone else):
- J.R.R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings series
- George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series
(Although to be fair, both of the above examples also used poetry as Epigraphs/Prophesies as well.)
Or you can do what John Green did in The Fault in Our Stars. In his book, he used poetry AND an actual poet as a major plot point surrounding THE ENTIRE NOVEL.
Side note: If you decided to use poetry that isn’t your own in a story, please do your research on the fair use of featuring another’s work in your novel. I don’t want anyone to get sued. 🙂
And last but not least…
4. Poetry teaches us to be succinct with our words.
Unless you can pull off some serious H.P. Lovecraft vibes, the first rule of Prose is to paint vivid pictures with the least amount of words possible. It’s also an area that generally goes through the most pruning during the editing process.
Reading and writing poetry is a fantastic tool to train our writing minds to be concise with word choices. And in turn, will aid us on our journey to become better writers.
Have I’ve convinced you to give poetry a chance, but don’t know where to start?
Here are a few of my favorite poets:
What is your relationship with poetry?
Is poetry a close friend or a distant acquaintance in your writing life?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!