Some Perspectives on Poetry and Prose
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.
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.
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