Building poetry muscles through prose

I’m up to 18,988 words (how precise is that?) and I’m learning. The beauty of allowing myself to write badly in these 1,666-word sprints is that I can look back, evaluate over time, see what I’m missing (for one thing, a working title). I can develop voice as I go, get to know the people, find the plot as they move through it. While I’m furiously writing one day’s words, I get a healthy distance from what I wrote a couple of days or a week ago.

I could have mapped it all out beforehand (and I’ve tried that when writing the previous iterations of this story). But while learning as I go might mean even more revision work later, it’s incredibly freeing. It gives me the flexibility to take risks and make mistakes (which I’ll probably find out about later.)

This can inform my approach to poetry. Often, I’ll know a poem isn’t quite working (or isn’t working at all), but I can’t pinpoint the problem. Or, in hunting for it, I’ll revise the life out of the poem. I want to take the lessons I’m learning in the long form and apply them to poems. After the end of the month, when I have time.

How do other genres help your poems?

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1 comment

  1. Mary Alexandra Agner’s avatar

    I love that final question! For years, writing poetry has helped me with writing other genres (mostly technical documentation) and now as I explore freelancing in journalism and creative nonfiction, it is still the best foundation I could have hoped for: use just the right words, open and close with a kicker, end when you’re done, maybe even before.

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