“No matter how good a phrase or a simile he may have, if he puts it in where it is not absolutely necessary and irreplaceable he is spoiling his work for egotism. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.” – Ernest Hemingway
Prose gives voice to a limitless array of characters, forming an ensemble of colourfully memorable personas and giving an introspection into the most complex, compelling, and human of minds.
Prose creates worlds of endless possibilities, plunging the reader into ski slopes and sand dunes, seascapes and the Spanish countryside, testing the limits of our imaginative power and whisking us away to wherever the writer wishes. Prose is also malleable to suit the author’s purpose: whether they want us to cry or laugh, think and wonder, or see something new in the very world we live in, there is no end to the motivations of a writer and the goals which their work can achieve.
Ambiguity exists in prose as it does in all language, but nowhere near the extent of that in poetry. Each and every reader can absorb a piece of prose and make from it their own decisive interpretations and have their own unique and personal reactions. On the other hand, poetry is slippery and often tricky to pin down; some bits of verse can be infinitely perplexing and only serve to give a headache to all but the most astute and intent of scholars.
There is therefore no doubt why prose fills the shelves of every bookshop whilst poetry gets only a dusty corner. The former comes in sentences that try to match how we speak or think, often reflecting the progression of our rational thought process which makes it easy for a reader to follow. It is then no wonder why prose is used in everything from storytelling and speeches, to journalism and law. It is accessible to the masses, a perfect form for meditative escapism, and is constantly being reshaped.
There is no end to the power of prose
– Joel Shelley
“Poetry is the music of the soul, and above all of great and of feeling souls. One merit of poetry few persons will deny; it says more and in fewer words than prose.” – Voltaire
Poetry is raw feelings, pure emotions, its naked author and their direct expression, or the sound of the sea under a sunny, windy afternoon. Prose might tell you how to sea sounds, but poetry will make you hear it.
As opposed to an often descriptive prose, poetry evokes rather than explains. While sentences can scare a reader, provoke sadness, mystery, or joy, verses throw such emotions so that reader is able to feel directly from the page, rather than understand the feelings depicted. “Don’t be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it,” said Ezra Pound.
Of course, there are many types or poetry. Common patterns such as rhythm, aesthetics, imagery or rhetoric figures are often found in it, which, in excess, might make a piece seem overly complicated and unnecessarily decorated. However, poetry is no longer restricted to specific forms, and it can also be free, plain, or even simplistic.
Take some styles of modernism and imagist poetry, or haiku, for instance. Using the simplest figures, a short poem can present life and make the reader directly experience its evocative emotions. “Soon I’ll find the right words, they’ll be very simple,” Kerouac once wrote.
The truth is, not everyone engages with poetry or understands it in the same way, and some poems are indecipherable even after reading them dozens of times. While one might believe a poem is talking about their most inner self and absolutely adore it, others might not understand what the fuss is about. However, perhaps it is such freedom of expression that makes poetry beautiful, allowing specific pieces to engage with specific people only.
Poetry’s beauty lies on the fact that, when it is understood, it is understood from the heart.
– Mireia Molina