The Writer’s Toolbox – Tale told by a Poet

Did you get your poetry on this year?

This past month the writing community celebrated National Poetry Month, with libraries, schools, and literary organizations holding events to promote poetry appreciation.

But, if you missed it, You’re not alone. The truth is that for most adults, poetry is something that was left behind in high school. What a loss! Poetry can be a thing of beauty?and it has a practical benefit, too. In fact, reading and writing poetry will help make you a better writer of prose.

Be succinct
Whether You’re writing a novel or an academic paper, one common pitfall is wordiness. In fiction, this usually takes the form of rambling description, over-telling of details, and explaining, rather than showing, emotions and feelings. In nonfiction, it often involves jargon and long, awkward constructions and transitions.

No matter the genre or style of writing, word choice matters. But in poetry, particularly poetry That’s constrained by form (think haikus) or rhythm, word choice is a matter of life and death. There’s simply no room for wordy constructions or unnecessary extras; each word and phrase needs to be carefully chosen to make a statement or convey a mood in as concise a way as possible. Practicing conciseness by reading and writing poetry is a good way to learn the skills needed to defeat wordiness.

Use figurative language
Poetry is known for figurative language, or language that describes through comparison, whether directly (?My love is like a red, red rose . . .?) or indirectly (?Thy eternal summer shall not fade?). Using figurative language creates rich description, paints a vivid picture for the reader, and keeps the writing fresh and interesting. Writers struggling with description in their writing can seek inspiration from the world of poetry and its use of figurative language.

Convey emotion
Poetry is the language of the heart, so It’s said, and It’s true; there is no better medium to express the cornucopia of emotions held by the human heart. You’ve probably heard that reading poetry helps us develop empathy and understanding for the thoughts and feelings of others?but the benefits go beyond the social realm.

Reading and writing poetry will train writers to access their own emotions and develop empathy for the emotional journeys of the characters they’re writing about. This understanding in turn allows writers to break patterns of wooden or one-dimensional characters and instead create more nuanced, human characters that readers can relate to and want to read more about.

Get started!
Reading and writing poetry is a wonderful experience in its own right, but it will also broaden your writing skills and help you improve conciseness, description, and character development. don’t leave poetry for April alone! Though the month is almost finished, poetry belongs in every writer’s toolbox all year round.

Christina M. Frey is a book editor and a lover of great writing. Chat with her on Twitter about all things literary @turntopage2. Or visit her website.

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