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I have some writer friends who look down on poets as if poetry wasn't really writing. And I know a few poets who feel the same about novelists. The truth is, whether it takes hours or years to complete, writing is writing. We struggle with it like a difficult child and feel pride when we send it off on its own. We are writersóand we can learn from one another.

So, in the spirit of unity, I challenge you, my fellow writers, to this exercise. Pick up a book. It can be anythingófiction, cookbook, computer magazine, etc. Open it at random and jot down a passage of text. I will use my book, Mortar's Keep, as an example.

TEXT: Ente smelled a taint in the air. She narrowed her eyes against the dark. The gravelling of her lantern had fallen to dust, leaving her blinded. Stooped and aching, she shambled onward, hampered by the nearness of the ceiling, the closeness of the walls. She carried her robes balled up before her, leaving her knuckles prone to scrapes. The dust laced air filled her throat with bitterness. But not so bitter as her own misgivings.

Now break the paragraph into lines. There is no wrong way to do thisójust be aware of the rhythm of the sentences and the intent of the words.



Ente smelled a taint in the air.


She narrowed her eyes against the dark.


The graveling of her lantern had fallen to dust,


leaving her blinded.


Stooped and aching,


she shambled onward,


hampered by the nearness of the ceiling,


the closeness of the walls.


She carried her robes


balled up before her


leaving her knuckles prone to scrapes.


The dust laced air


filled her throat with bitterness.


But not so bitter as her own misgivings.

Now comes the fun partótake out the extra words. Examine each line and cut as many words as you can without changing the meaning. Feel free to fudge a bit.



Tainted Air



She narrowed her eyes


against the dark.


Her lantern had fallen to dust,


leaving her blinded,


stooped and aching,


shambling,


hampered by walls.


She carried her robes


balled before her,


leaving her knuckles


prone to scrapes.


Tainted air


filled her with bitterness


but not so bitter


as misgiving.

There we have a poem. Not a very good one, but a poem nonetheless. It is concise and precise, as all writing should be. But let's cut it further, looking at the rhythm of the piece.



She narrowed her eyes,


her lantern fallen,


leaving her blind,


hampered by walls.


Tainted air filled her


with bitterness but


not so bitter


as misgiving.

Be it prose or poetry, rhythm is an effective way to control your readers' emotion. You can lull them with a plodding gait then change it. Your reader won't know what woke them upóbut you will.



------
Roxanne Smolen
www.roxannesmolen.com




Comments

The following comments are for "Prose vs. Poetry"
by Starscapeviews

Yep
Yeah, I did know this exercise is taught at colleges. Actually, that's where I learned it. But the piece wasn't about people looking down on writers, it was about writers looking down on other writers. It's offensive. Literary writers look down on mainstream, genre writers pooh-pooh journalists, even suspense or mystery writers talk like they're above writing science fiction. Hasn't anyone else come across this?

( Posted by: Starscapeviews [Member] On: November 22, 2004 )

I didn't know
I didn't know this was taught at colleges, but I apply it to my own writing. I called it the rythm of my work. Thank you for this informative article. I don't label my work as prose or poetry, because I am never exactly sure which is which. I write, I like it, I move on, no lables, I just do what comes naturally. If I had to sit down and figure all of this stuff out or sit in a class room and memorize it I am sure I would go insane. I prefer other read it and label it. I did appreciate this article, it gave me a little insight into my art, insight I try hard to avoid!(ha,ha,ha)
Thanks
-Lisa

( Posted by: Scryer [Member] On: November 22, 2004 )





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