A phrase from workshop continues to ring in my ears:
“Prose is not the opposite of Poetry.”
And how thankful I am for that. Moving abruptly from a year and a half of writing prose into poetry has been difficult, but remembering that I am not starting from scratch has been helpful. So…
What have I learned in writing prose that I can translate into poetry? From my short experience, I saw that prose was based in streams of images, based more deliberately in certain environments (settings, cultures, timeframes) than poetry. However, inevitably, it seemed that prose was exploring these realities, which seems to be how poetry is functioning as well. Prose remains realistic (literary fiction) and, simply put, it presents a story that leaves room for interpretation.
Now, there’s poetry, and how similar it is. Poetry thrives on streams of images that interpret and recreate realities in order to probe social aspects of our lives. David Foster Wallace says, as optimal advice to his fiction workshop students, “the reader cannot read your mind,” and he repeats it again and again in an interview with Bryan A. Garner, transcribed in a highly recommended book, Quack This Way.
Moving from prose to poetry, or residing in poetry, we must not forget that we are writing sentences, changed primarily by line breaks.