Thursday, June 04, 2020

Texts in lines are poems

Here's how I distinguish prose and poetry: prose is organized in paragraphs, poetry in lines, so texts in lines are poems. (This doesn't explain "prose poetry".) With meter, something's counted: usually syllables or stresses. When you've counted up what's being counted, you start a new line. When lines aren't determined by counting, it's less clear where they should end. They can follow syntax and end with sentences, clauses, or phrases. If that's all they do, the poem can seem flat, but if they always break syntactical units, that can seem arbitrary. Still, meter also drags if it's too static, and stumbles if it's too variable. The rest is reading, and practice. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 June)

(A friend asked me to explain why a particular text was a poem; this is an adapted version of my answer to him.)

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