I am not a poet. I don’t regularly read poetry. But I have read poetry, have written poems, and have taught poetry. I’m attracted to narrative, stories, characters, a fully developed character, plot and more. Poetry is like a tease.
But even for prose writers – even if you’re the most workaday prose writer – dipping your toes into poetry can be a way to enrich your writing.
First, poetry is something you can read in the matter of moments. You can read a complete poem in the time it takes to run a bath, brew a pot of coffee, or while waiting for your kid to be done with practice. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t savor it. Poems are meant to be read over and over, in quiet contemplation, to go back to again and again.
Second, poems give you glimpses into different worlds, different perspectives, tidbits of information and suggestions. Try writing a poem from the perspective of a character (real or imagined) and see what happens.
Third, poems can teach you about language. Every word, more so than in prose, is there for a reason. In poetry you often come across words you may not be familiar with. Poets use language in different ways, playing with their sounds, what they look like on the page, and their meanings. Poems can help you step outside of your usual nature of things. If you write poetry, you are forced to work with language differently. While it can be important for prose writers to not stop and worry about every word or sentence on the page, sometimes we also need to learn how to slow down and do exactly that.
Want to dive a bit further? Check out poets.org, where you can sign up to read or listen to a new poem every day.