I’m a storyteller and a poet. Storytellers need someone to listen; poets need only whisper to themselves.
I wrote that over five years ago, when I was first setting up this blog. I continue to have this duality as a writer. I won’t call it a conflict, because there is no war of words in me, only an integration of their use lyrically and narratively.
Always be a poet, even in prose. ~ Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire by Claude Courbet, 1849
I have to confess that, whether reading or writing it, I become more engaged with prose that has the sensitivity, sound and cadence of poetry. No matter its subject or objective, be it fiction or non-fiction, light or dark, joyous or tragic, as it unfolds a character or events, describes a room or landscape or sunset, is active or contemplative or emotional, I need a sense of the exploration of language’s possibilities in what I read and write.
Verse is everywhere in language where there is rhythm, everywhere …in truth there is no prose: there is the alphabet, and then verses more or less tight, more or less diffuse.
~ Stéphane Mallarme, real name Étienne Mallarmé,
French symbolist poet
Stéphane Mallarme by Édouard Manet, 1876
As opposites attract, poetry and prose enjoy a special intimacy. Their union challenges the intellect, seduces the senses and imagination, and speaks between the lines. It appeals to the wanderer who is also a lingerer. It requires readers who prefer an unhurried, indirect route to those who just want to get from “A” to “B” in the fast lane.
In North Carolina driving from Asheville to Boone presents a choice. A driver can stick to the interstates or opt to take the Blue Ridge Parkway. The latter decision takes an extra hour or so, but along the way there are opportunities to stop at overlooks and enjoy scenes that are among the most magnificent in America. DM Denton’s writing presents a similar choice. It takes a little longer to read than most books of a similar page length, but along the way there are breathtaking moments which make the choice a wise one.
~ author Steve Lindahl from his review of my novel To A Strange Somewhere Fled
Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.
I can’t help myself. I have an insatiable appetite for the deliciousness of words: the order in which they’re added, how they’re blended to subtly flavor one another, their capacity to create a succession of complementary courses.
When you write in prose, you cook the rice. When you write poetry, you turn rice into rice wine. Cooked rice doesn’t change its shape, but rice wine changes both in quality and shape. Cooked rice makes one full so one can live out one’s life span . . . wine, on the other hand, makes one drunk, makes the sad happy, and the happy sad. Its effect is sublimely beyond explanation.
~ Wu Qiao, Chinese Master
Cooked rice and rice wine may be enjoyed at the same time. Why not opt for a full and sublimely nourishing literary feast and satisfy the need for knowing and wondering?
Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye. ~ Dorothy Parker
I love to write prose for the layered, rhythmic, aesthetic aspects of language, just as I do when writing verse, but neither comes easy for me. I’m an artist straddling detail and abstraction, who moves from lines and colors to the written word with the same concentration on each stroke in order to achieve whatever vision I have for the whole canvas. Poetry can illustrate prose, draw its breath more vividly, and give its words individual lives in the crowds of thousands.
Creative writing is an art beyond the ability to communicate correctly and clearly; it’s about resisting what is safe, even defying what is safe, going out on a limb, even, for the bravest or craziest, out further than that limb has ever been tested.
Just as the virtuoso musician knows that perfect technique is no substitute for imperfect expression …
The author’s style takes the conventional and then begins the deconstruction, the rearrangements … This deconstruction and rearranging is what an artist does. Rather than imitate reality, he selects what is important to him, and abstracts what is essential to achieve a new reality. People, relationships, emotions and ideas are put through this process of reordering. The artist abstracts what is vital and compelling, and releases it as a living thing. From the moment of inspiration until the intuitive flow has ceased, expression is more important than communication.
~ author Mary Clark from her review of my novel A House Near Luccoli
Wisely mingled poetry and prose, to quote Louisa May Alcott, takes years to achieve, which is probably why, although writing since my childhood, I was in my fifties before my work was “ready” to be published.
Louisa May Alcott
Of course, some aspects of poetry, like rhyme, can seem out of place in prose. Alliteration has to be used sparingly; sometimes it organically creeps in and is allowed to stay, other times it’s too consciously clever and must be sent regretfully but appropriately away. Repetition can have a place here and there for necessary emphasis. Metaphor and simile can be either form’s friend or foe. Of course, grammar is more autocratic in prose; the rules are there, but …
I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. ~ Elmore Leonard, American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter
It could be argued that poetic prose is overly descriptive (or flowery, as detractors like to address it), producing writing that is verbose and lengthy. From what I’ve seen, the opposite is true. Straight narratives often result in many more pages than those focusing on the shape, sound, and implication of almost every word. Poetry tends to be concise, needs organization and carefulness in crafting, and, therefore, doesn’t lend itself to four hundred page novels. Well, not to be achieved in a year or two, anyway.
“I suppose that’s how it looks in prose. But it’s very different if you look at it through poetry … and I think it’s nicer,” Anne recovered herself and her eyes shone and her cheeks flushed, “to look at it through poetry.”
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Lucy Maud Montgomery
My writing drips rather than gushes onto the page. Where other writers set and achieve goals of getting down a few thousand words at a sitting, I’m grateful to my muse – and my stamina – if I accomplish five hundred or so. Sometimes it’s frustrating, mostly it’s about having patience and persevering, finally it’s an accomplishment that has listened to the (begging) storyteller and (whispering) poet in me.
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