Writing Poetic: Art

This is the 3rd of 4 posts in my Writing Poetic series this month. If you missed the first two, you can visit them here:
Writing Poetic: What’s in a name?
Writing Poetic: Finding Resonance 

Creative writing of any kind can be considered “of the arts”. I personally think it should be. But poetry especially is an art.

Think about it for a moment. When we read a novel or a short story we look for flow, coherence, world-building, sense of characters, overall plot, voice and tone of the author, and those sorts of things. When we look at a poem we are drawn to both the word play and the image those words paint.

“Painter” by DA artist andre2886

The man in this photograph is creating an image on canvas with real paint. But a poet who looks at this same scene will paint an image of his own. Just like a painter who uses color and brushstrokes to evoke an emotion, the poet will use his words to evoke the image.

Words are chosen carefully in novels because a novelist doesn’t want to say anything unnecessary. Everything should be important and relevant to the story. But a novelist also knows that the reader is not going to agonize over the placement and usage of every word in a 90,000 word book. But when a poet expresses a moment, an image in the mere 14 lines of a sonnet, he knows that every word will be noticed. The difference between using full sentences and comma segments is the difference between oils and acrylic paint. The difference between using “majestic” and “monumental” is the difference between the work of an impressionist and that of a neo-classical artist.

There have been times that editing poetry for me has come down to usage of a comma or which word I want to break a line on. It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but changing something that small can change the way a poem is read and thus the result it portrays.

So when reading poetry, whether it is a modern example or a classic from the greats, read it slowly, intentionally, the way you would admire a Matisse or Monet. It’s amazing the difference that can make.

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11 thoughts on “Writing Poetic: Art

  1. I once spent 4 hours working on two lines of a PB written in verse, so I totally get this post. I love the charge to read a poem the way you would admire a painting. You can’t assume you will “get it all” in one reading, especially a fast one.

    • I can believe it, but I can also believe he probably worked on other things throughout that year and just kept coming back to that one line over and over too. Sometimes that happens. =)

  2. As writers, punctuation and grammar are like brush strokes, while plot and characters are more like composition and design. A good painting needs a balance of detail work and style. Good writing does the same. As you said so well in your post here, both take time.

  3. i usually read poetry out loud – even if just to myself. i think the words need to be heard for me to hear their meaning and for me to slow down enough to enjoy them the way they were intended.

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