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Spotlight on Poetry

Many of our clients at Writer’s Relief are aspiring or published poets, and we are often asked questions about poetry: Is there a difference between poetry and prose? Why is poetry so powerful? How does one publish poems?

What’s the difference between poetry and prose?

First and most obviously, poetry and prose often—though not always—look different on the printed page. A paragraph from a novel is usually distinguishable from a poem made up of couplets or individual, independent lines.

Poetry is written or spoken according to a specific pattern (usually a rhythm or meter) and is often embellished with rhyme or other poetic techniques such as alliteration. Prose is written language that does not follow a formal pattern of verse. The line rules in a poem; the sentence rules in prose.

What makes poetry so powerful?

Poetry is like music—it entrances us and makes us sway to its rhythm. Sometimes literally.

Poetry is complex. A good poem can’t be summed up too easily. There are layers of meaning to be discovered and perhaps interpreted differently by different people.

It’s evocative. Poets ache to elicit a response from their readers—they want you to sit up and take notice; to cry; to laugh; to feel disgust or joy. They want you to feel. Oftentimes poems are the product of venting, whether it’s love, grief, or anger. The poet wants to translate these emotions across the page to the reader, if only for a brief moment.

Poetry is freedom. Go ahead and write a carefully metered, rhyming sonnet with the first letter of each line capitalized. Or go free-form and use complicated rhyme schemes and meters. Whatever gets the point across. Punctuation rules fly out the window, and the poet is free to create.

Poetry celebrates our culture and it can be persuasive or educational. It challenges us to think about our world in a new way. Poets can transform a mundane happening into something that makes us say, “I know just what you mean!” or “I never saw it that way before.”

Why is poetry such an attractive form?

Each word of a poem counts. Its placement on the page counts. The interaction of the words and the sounds are purposeful and important. There should be a message, a point, a kernel of truth to be uncovered, prized out like a nut from its shell.

Sometimes an emotion or a message needs to come out, but a short story isn’t the right vehicle. A two-line poem may sum it up perfectly and allow the writer to move on.

Poets also benefit from a huge array of styles, techniques, and forms to work with. There’s a great deal of room for creativity and experimentation involved in poetry, which makes it fun to write and complicated to analyze sometimes.

How do I publish my poetry?

Check out these articles: How to Market Your Poetry and How to Publish a Poetry Book, Chapbook, or Collection of Poems. You’ll learn how to publish individual poems, chapbooks, and full-length collections, as well as other publishing issues specific to poetry.

A poem may start out as personal and private, but it needs an audience to find its true purpose of expression. That’s what we do at Writer’s Relief. We target your submissions to the literary magazines and editors who are most likely to publish your poetry—so you can share your work with poetry lovers everywhere.

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