Poetry: A Secret to Better Prose

Learning the Language of Emotion

Tarrant Smith May 13 · 4 min read (First published on Medium. Some text has been highlighted by Medium readers.)

Photo by Lavi Perchik on Unsplash

I’m not a poet but in fits and spurts, I pretend to be. I think forcing myself to think lyrical, choosing each word with care, and the tortuous imposition of brevity is an exercise worth the effort — even if the results are far from perfect. Reading and writing poetry has made me a better prose writer. And because poetry is the language of imagery and emotion, it can help you too.

I’m an author with several romance titles to my name, but I was an aspiring poet first. I’ve been writing bad to mediocre poetry since the age of eight. Just ask my parents. They still have some of my earliest attempts framed and on display. The rhyming, self-involved drivel of my pre-teen mind is scattered among family photographs lining their bookshelves. It’s embarrassing and sweetly endearing that they’ve kept them.

I know I’m not a real poet because I have friends who are honest to God poets. They’re different than ordinary folk. I believe, they see and experience life more deeply — their minds making strange and wonderful connections that I struggle to notice in my ordinary day to day life. But it works for them, and with each poem they produce, I get to experience an emotional moment of their lives encapsulated inside a few well-crafted stanzas.

It’s magical and awe-inspiring to see what a poetic mind can produce in a few well-chosen words.

Because I don’t claim to be a poet, don’t attempt to judge the poetry of others according to the correctness of form. My only standard of saying ‘this is good’ or ‘this is bad’ rests solely on whether I’m moved by the end product. Did I understand the overall meaning? Was it clever? Did I feel something after reading it? And, these are the same standards I apply to my own efforts.

So what is it about poetry? Why is it important to read and attempt to pen a poem yourself?

Well, and I can’t stress this enough, poetry is the language of emotion. Its entire purpose is to elicit a feeling from the reader. Using metaphor, symbols, meter, repetition, sound, color, and other tools, a poem has the power to seep past our critical minds and touch the very heart of us.

Learning how that lyrical alchemy works, even in a small way, is worth a writer’s effort.

Though Medium isn’t a profitable place to share your poetry, it is a welcoming platform. The community of poetry writers are supportive. They read and clap. If you’ve managed to string together a striking image they tend to highlight it. And on occasion, you’ll receive an encouraging comment. I love those!

You’ll find all kinds of poems to read on Medium, from the brevity of Haiku to long free-verse poems that take you on a journey. Search the word poetry and you’ll discover publications dedicated to all sorts of poetic forms. And whether you share your efforts through one of these publications, publish on your own, or never show your poems to anyone, the time you take learning the art will not be in vain.

Lately my poetic efforts have been centered around sex, love, and the power dynamic of BDSM. I seem to have sex on the brain lately. Some people are baking during this pandemic to deal with stress. I tried that, but my husband complained about his weight gain, so I turned to the next best thing.

Once you go lyrical, you’ll glimpse the world of words differently.

Like a melody, the sound and beat of the words on the page will start to produce music inside your mind. Read aloud, rhythms will appear in your prose work. You may begin to notice the dance between breath and pause, phrase and emphasis. Overall, your writing will become more musical.

When I’m stuck because I’ve written a character into a corner or I’m not ready to write a difficult scene, I’ve discovered that taking a break from my current manuscript to write a week’s worth of poetry is extremely beneficial. By the time I’m done with that exercise, I can return to my book with fresh eyes and the words flow freely again.

Poetry has the power to refill the emotional well and make everything clearer.

So if you’ve never written a poem in your life, I urge you to give it a try. If you are a closet poet, I encourage you to share your poetry on Medium. But above all, my friend, I hope you take a few minutes every day to read a poem. Not only will it teach you the language of emotion, but it will feed your writer’s soul.

Author: TarrantSmith

I'm an old soul born at a young age, and a full-time author working on a new series.