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Some Perspectives on Poetry and Prose

John has many years of writing experience in poetry, short fiction and text for children's books. Basically he just loves to write.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Don't Lose Your Poetic Licence

I lack an eloquence of words,

Flowery phrases pass me by.

Cryptic verse makes my head ache

When to decypher it I try.


Some poets are true wordsmiths

With a thesaurus for a brain,

But sadly I'm not one of those,

From deep thinking, I refrain.


The words I write to form my poems

Just float into my head,

I don't sift through a dictionary,

I'll just relax instead.


Some say my verse is childish,

Especially when it rhymes

But they use lots of purple prose

To cover up their crimes.


The term "poetic licence"

Allows a lot of flack,

To write a poem the way we want,

Use words that sometimes lack.


There are certain types of poetry

Requiring structured form,

But other poems are free verse

And this is now the norm.


Free verse poetry has its place

But each line needs to flow.

The words must form a rhythm,

Whether it be fast or slow.


Just making prose look like a poem

I'm afraid just will not work.

Breaking it into short lines

Is just some crazy perk.


Here's my attempt at some free verse

With no planning at all.

Just set it out in stanzas

And let the words just fall.


Our Home

I built a house for my wife and me,

To complete, it took me months.

Brick by brick I laboured,

Under the blazing sun.


Putting the last brick in place,

I rejoiced a job well-done.

This was a house to call "our home,"

Built by my sweat and blood.


* notice here, that even when trying to write free verse poetry I have trouble not resorting to rhyme? In the first stanza "months" and "sun" come close to rhyming, as does "done" and "blood" in the second.

Alternative in Prose

The above verse may sound ok, but I could just as easily have written the same as a passage of prose:

I built a house for my wife and me. To complete it took me months. Brick by brick I laboured under the blazing sun.

Putting the last brick in place, I rejoiced a job well-done. This was a house to call "our home," built by my sweat and blood.

So, you see how easy it can be just to take a passage of prose, restructure it, and call it free verse, or prose poetry.

Image by Edda Klepp from Pixabay

Image by Edda Klepp from Pixabay

Flowery Speech or Purple Prose

Flowery speech (or writing) is full of elaborate language (complicated or literary words and expressions). It is the opposite of speech (or writing) that uses clear and simple language. It is sometimes also called “Purple Prose” though it can be found just as often in poetry as it is in prose.

Fans of the book series may not like this but here is a good example of purple prose from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer:

His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn’t sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.

Descriptive? Sure, but In my opinion, this is too much.

Purple prose is also not the same as lyrical, poetic writing. A purple passage will also be lacking in rhythm. It will seem awkward and lumbering

A good rule of thumb in determining whether or not writing is purple is if there is a lot of elaborate telling rather than showing, with a proliferation of unnecessary adjectives. (source: Noteworthy-The Journal Blog)

Just remember the immortal word of Ernest Hemingway, the king of economic prose. In response to William Faulkner’s criticism that his writing was too simple, he replied:

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.

— Ernest Hemingway

© 2019 John Hansen

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on September 02, 2019:

Thank you so much, Devika. that is a very kind comment. poetry isn't for everyone, but you should never be afraid to try.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 02, 2019:

I haven't tried poetry and not sure if I will go down that path in writing. You have talent and know how to put together great lines to make it possible. Interesting and written with courage.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 17, 2019:

Lora, thank you for confirming my opinion, and in fact, you stated very clearly what free verse needs to be to qualify as poetry.

I totally agree with you liking poems that have a clear message and aren’t so abstract no one can understand them. Thanks for reading.

Lora Hollings on August 16, 2019:

John, I totally agree with your perspective on poetry. It takes skill, in my opinion, to master the art of poetry as any other genre of writing. There are too many people who call what they write a poem and it really doesn't qualify. If you use free verse, then the words need to have a metrical structure. If not, then what is the difference between a poem and just prose or ordinary speech? There really isn't any. And to me this isn't poetry, but only masquerading as such. I really enjoyed your witty poem, "Don't Lose Your Poetic License." I also enjoy poems that have a message more than those that seem to be written primarily to impress or whose meaning is so camouflaged that no one really but the poet can understand. When we write, I think we all must ask ourselves who are we really writing for and what is our purpose? Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 16, 2019:

Thank you so much Rasma. I love you’re poetry as well.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on August 16, 2019:

I love the rhythm and flow of your poetry and I love how you can tell a story through poetry.,

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 13, 2019:

Hi Rinita, it is always wonderful to see a comment by you. I am so glad you enjoyed this hub. You can’t argue with Hemingway lol, and don’t get me started on Twilight.

The “building your home” excerpt was influenced by my previous poem “The House That Jack Built.” You are very observant. Have a great day.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 13, 2019:

Hello, Shauna. Thank you for saying you like the flow of my poetry. It is one thing I try to get right. I reread it out loud a few times to see if the flow pleases me before I publish it. If not I make some changes.

One of the biggest criticisms of rhyming poetry is that it can seem forced so I am glad mine doesn’t come over that way.

The term purple prose is derived from a reference by the Roman poet Horace In his ”Ars Poetica.”

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 13, 2019:

John, I think your perspectives are right on. One thing I love about your poetry is the flow. Your rhymes seems so natural, not forced or convoluted at all.

And I agree with you regarding purple prose (although I'll admit I've never heard the term before). Too many descriptive words take away from the story. That's when I close the book or hit the X in my browser.

Rinita Sen on August 13, 2019:

You're back! And with a great hub, too. Hemingway was always right on top of things, wasn't he? Oh, and that excerpt from 'Twilight'! I never read the books, but now I don't regret. LOL. The example you gave of free verse (building your home) is from a poem you published long ago if I am not mistaken. I did love that. Keep them coming.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 12, 2019:

Haha, thank you Elijah. I wish.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on August 12, 2019:

Thank you, you master of written words,

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 12, 2019:

Yes, Marie. Good to see you. I love to experiment with different forms, but I keep returning to what I prefer. Enjoy your week.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on August 12, 2019:

Hi Jodah, I thought I'd take a look at this one because I like new perspectives.

Your tendency toward form and rhyme are clear. It's nice to experiment with different forms and styles in writing.

Have a nice day!

Ann Carr from SW England on August 11, 2019:

Thank you, John.

Ann

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 11, 2019:

Thank you for reading, Flourish. Yes, give me Hemingway over Faulkner any day. Haha, yep no dictionary required here.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 11, 2019:

The first of those is one of my favourite “big” words, Eric. I hope you use it in a poem. That shouldn’t be hard though as it rhymes with so many words like precocious, atrocious etc and is already a song.

Glad this article got the mind turning over.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 11, 2019:

I was just thinking of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. And then antidisestablishmentarianism. But maybe precocious and prism would be hard to work in.

I just love this thought provoking hub and prose. I need to get a life.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 11, 2019:

I haven’t read Faulkner in a long time, and there’s good reason for it, although he did boost my vocabulary as a young person. Too long-winded. I appreciate Hemingway’s style instead—stripped down, more direct. I liked that the reader of your poem did not have to refer to a dictionary to enjoy it.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 11, 2019:

Thanks for confirming my opinion of purple (flowery)prose. I agree that both rhyme and free verse have their place. I am also glad that you have come to enjoy writing poetry as well as prose recently. You do a great job with both.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 11, 2019:

Hi MsDora. I am glad you found the “purple prose” explanation helpful and interesting and share my preference for rhyming poetry. Thanks for the kind words.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 11, 2019:

I couldn't agree more, John. 'Flowery' prose or poetry can be over-the-top. I suppose it has its place but I can't think of one at the moment!

I enjoy writing prose which has always been my preferred genre. However, having lately written more poetry I've grown to enjoy writing and reading it more, be it rhyming or free. Each lends itself to certain subjects I think.

Good for Hemingway and how could one criticise him anyway?!

Great piece, John.

Ann

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 11, 2019:

John, your understanding of poetry and your ability to teach and llustrate it is beyond question. I also love rhymes. It takes great effort for me to appreciate what they call free verse. Thanks for explaining the purple prose concept.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Thank you so much, Liz. That is an appreciated and humbling comment.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

I always appreciate your positive and encouraging comments Pamela, and I am glad you are able to learn something from my articles as well. Thank you.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Eric, my friend. I am glad you found an unintended challenge in here and I certainly look forward to what you may produce....prose ending in words you didn’t know hmmm. I am also happy that you found that inner poet in yourself and you are letting him express himself. Big fancy words have their place as long as they are not overdone.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Sean, your comments always brighten my day. “Hansenway” has a right to it lol. Thank you for your kind words.

The Rainbow Poet.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Thank you for reading, Linda. I agree with every word you say..Go Hemingway!

Liz Westwood from UK on August 10, 2019:

This is an article written by a true wordsmith. Your poetry is well thought out and refreshing to read. Your thoughts on prose are fascinating.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 10, 2019:

John, I always enjoy and learn from your articles. Any leassons on writing poetry are always enjoyed as poetry has not been my cup of tea for writing. I really like the Hemingway quote, and I have always liked him anyway. The poem is excellent in my humble opinion.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 10, 2019:

Ok let me go.

My son told me to stop talking in rhyme as he giggled

Stuff just comes out in rhyme -- so imprison me.

Huge fancy words are cool to. I do not care for them but I love them. Maybe not in prose.

But your unstated challenge is on. Prose ending in words I did not know. This could be a ride. I think I will have to go deeper and into some regional stuff for synonyms. Aussie, Indian, London, Canada and of course Louisiana. My wife's is ESL Viet. My sons is hipster elementary school - They have words that boggle the mind.

Well that is not to mention I love your message and work here.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on August 10, 2019:

I love John Hansenway. Period. Lol!

My dear brother, John, what I like most in your poetry is that you always let Love to choose the words, the style and the colours! That is Art for me, and I am grateful to read your work! Your "Rainbow poetry"!

Let Love fill the verses of your life!

Sean

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 10, 2019:

John, I enjoy your poetry but was comments on purple prose are what really resonate with me. I have read far too many books lately that are simply dreadful. I find myself wondering how they were ever published. Why use one adjective when 4 or more will make the writing even more impactful? (Insert eye roll emoji here).

And Hemmingway was right on. I never had to keep a dictionary at my fingertips to read one of his novels. Using big words doesn't improve one's writing or make one appear more intelligent; it's just pompous.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Hello Brenda, I’m glad you loved my poem and it’s flow. Thank you for your supportive comment, and yes it is the feeling expressed in the poem more than the actual words that is important.

I too prefer poetry that has a message but that is easily understood. You are also right that some poetry uses words straight from the dictionary and every second one at that.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Hey Val. Good to see you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your own poetry and your opinion. I actually write for myself first and then the audience here second. I have to like what I write and find it appealing, or feel my message is clear before I share it.

A fellow poet here once drew my attention to a line in one of my poems being a syllable short and not flowing perfectly. He said he knew I was a perfectionist and would want to correct it. Well, the funny thing is I never count the syllables in the lines of my poems unless it is a set form like haiku or a sonnet lol. If it sounds good and has a nice flow when I read it out loud it’s fine by me.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on August 10, 2019:

John,

I loved your poem Dont lose your...

It flows just fine.

It seems strange to me when so many words are used like someone literally took them from a dictionary to create a piece of work.

I personally want to understand the meaning of a poem without having to look it up in the dictionary.

I like poems that use feelings over words, but everyone is different.

Nice work on this one.

I needed a good chuckle this morning.

Val Karas from Canada on August 10, 2019:

John -- This is exactly why I never called myself a "poet". I have no clue about the theory of writing poetry, and at the risk of insulting my reader, I don't really worry who likes my poems and who does not -- and why. Goes without saying -- we can't please everybody, and even those who like what we write may be more critical about some of our pieces.

When it comes to a "right" form, or choice of words, you mentioned the excellent example of Hemingway and Faulkner. I mean, if those two biggies could not agree about how far poetic licence could go, then why should we worry about it.

My poems are wide, they insist on rhyme, and I enjoy playing with the right margin of almost every stanza being slant. Words that I use may be simple and conversational, or may contain a few of those terms pertaining to some science, or philosophy.

I never worry about what critics will say about my rhythm going messy and inconsistent. To me it's even a little matter of my non-conforming, free spirit not to religiously follow a rhythm, "as if stepping on the toes of my dancing partner to wake her up from thinking nicely about my skill."

I don't mind being not-liked, John. If I never got another nice comment under my poem, I would still write, for my fun, because that's what I am doing in the first place. If others like it -- great -- if they don't, I'll have my self-expressing fun solo. Of course, I appreciate every word of praise, but I am not struggling with my "correct" form to deserve those praises. Amen.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Thank you, Lorna. I write poetry for the same reasons. I find it much easier to express my thoughts and feelings through verse than face-to-face also. I also agree with Hemingway over Faulkner. Thank you for your kind words.

Lorna Lamon on August 10, 2019:

I usually write poetry in response to feelings or thoughts and sometimes memories. I also find that my patients respond really well when they try to sum up how they feel through verse instead of face-to-face. I adore Hemingway and of course he is right you don't need fancy words to express what can only be felt in the heart. You John have the heart of a true poet.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on August 10, 2019:

Thank you, Bill. Yes, that is a compliment. We all have our own particular writing niches. I admire your work and will always be a fan. Thanks for reading.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 10, 2019:

From any perspective you wish, you are, and always will be, a much better poet than I am....I'm not sure that's saying much, but the intention was good on my part. :)