Poetry has an indirect way of hinting at things. Poetry is feminine. Prose is masculine. Prose, the very structure of it, is logical; poetry is basically illogical. Prose has to be clear-cut; poetry has to be vague - that's its beauty, its quality. Prose simply says what it says; poetry says many things. Prose is needed in the day-to-day world, in the marketplace. But whenever something of the heart has to be said, prose is always found inadequate - one has to fall back to poetry.
In general, I would think that at present prose writers are much in advance of the poets. In the old days, I read more poetry than prose, but now it is in prose where you find things being put together well, where there is great ambition, and equal talent. Poets have gotten so careless, it is a disgrace. You can't pick up a page. All the words slide off.
William H. Gass
Poetry is the most direct and simple means of expressing oneself in words: the most primitive nations have poetry, but only quitewell developed civilizations can produce good prose. So don't think of poetry as a perverse and unnatural way of distorting ordinary prose statements: prose is a much less natural way of speaking than poetry is. If you listen to small children, and to the amount of chanting and singsong in their speech, you'll see what I mean.
For me a page of good prose is where one hears the rain. A page of good prose is when one hears the noise of battle... A page of good prose seems to me the most serious dialogue that well-informed and intelligent men and women carry on today in their endeavor to make sure that the fires of this planet burn peaceably.
In high school, in 1956, at the age of sixteen, we were not taught "creative writing." We were taught literature and grammar. So no one ever told me I couldn't write both prose and poetry, and I started out writing all the things I still write: poetry, prose fiction - which took me longer to get published - and non-fiction prose.
Will you tell me, 'Oh, painting is a special art, whereas anyone can write prose passably well'? Can he, indeed? ... Can you, sir? Nay, believe me, you are either an archangel or a very bourgeois gentleman indeed if you admit to having spoken English prose all your life without knowing it.
Verse is everywhere in language where there is rhythm, everywhere, except in notices and on page four of the papers. In the genre called prose, there are verses [... ] of all rhythms. But in truth there is no prose: there is the alphabet, and then verses more or less tight, more or less diffuse.
I find in my poetry and prose the rhythms and imagery of the best - I mean, when I'm at my best - of the good Southern black preachers. The lyricism of the spirituals and the directness of gospel songs and the mystery of blues are in my music or in my poetry and prose, or I missed everything.
Poets seem to write more easily about love than prose writers. For a start, they own that flexible 'I'... . Then again, poets seem able to turn bad love "" selfish, shitty love "" into good love poetry. Prose writers lack this power of admirable, dishonest transformation. We can only turn bad love into prose about bad love. So we are envious (and slightly distrustful) when poets talk to us of love.
What a lumbering poor vehicle prose is for the conveying of a great thought! ... Prose wanders around with a lantern & laboriously schedules & verifies the details & particulars of a valley & its frame of crags & peaks, then Poetry comes, & lays bare the whole landscape with a single splendid flash.
Prose is not to be read aloud but to oneself alone at night, and it is not quick as poetry but rather a gathering web of insinuations ... Prose should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known. It should slowly appeal to feelings unexpressed, it should in the end draw tears out of the stone ...
It is not certain whether the effects of totalitarianism upon verse need be so deadly as its effects on prose. There is a whole series of converging reasons why it is somewhat easier for a poet than a prose writer to feel at home in an authoritarian society.[... ]what the poet is saying- that is, what his poem "means" if translated into prose- is relatively unimportant, even to himself. The thought contained in a poem is always simple, and is no more the primary purpose of the poem than the anecdote is the primary purpose of the picture. A poem is an arrangement of sounds and associations, as a painting is an arrangement of brushmarks. For short snatches, indeed, as in the refrain of a song, poetry can even dispense with meaning altogether.
I would say that the writers I like and trust have at the base of their prose something called the English sentence. An awful lot of modern writing seems to me to be a depressed use of language. Once, I called it "vow-of-poverty prose." No, give me the king in his countinghouse. Give me Updike.
...in song the words tend to lose their significance, do often lose it, while at the other extreme, in current prose it is the musical value that tends to disappear - so that verse stands symmetrically, as it were, between song, on the one hand, and prose on the other - and is thus admirably and delicately balanced between the sensual and the intellectual power of language.
Poetry contains few words but tells much. Its beauty is that by being condensed it is rich in meaning and open to various interpretations. Unlike prose, there is no boundary to poetry. There is nothing concrete or black and white. Poetry is mutable; it is transformative. Poetry is the alchemy of hearts. And what cannot be said in prose can sometimes be only said through poetry.
The yard was a little centre of regeneration. Here, with keen edges and smooth curves, were forms in the exact likeness of those he had seen abraded and time-eaten on the walls. These were the ideas in modern prose which the lichened colleges presented in old poetry. Even some of those antiques might have been called prose when they were new. They had done nothing but wait, and had become poetical. How easy to the smallest building; how impossible to most men.
Prose-it might be speculated-is discourse; poetry ellipsis. Prose is spoken aloud; poetry overheard. The one is presumably articulate and social, a shared language, the voice of "communication"; the other is private, allusive, teasing, sly, idiosyncratic as the spider's delicate web, a kind of witchcraft unfathomable to ordinary minds.
Joyce Carol Oates
Nothing is more satisfying than to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continued practice.
I try to find a style that matches the book. In the Baroque Cycle, I got infected with the prose style of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, which is my favorite era. It's recent enough that it is easy to read - easier than Elizabethan English - but it's pre-Victorian and so doesn't have the pomposity that is often a problem with 19th-century English prose. It is earthy and direct and frequently hilarious.
Most contemporary novels are not really "written." They obtain what reality they have largely from an accurate rendering of the noises that human beings currently make in their daily simple needs of communication; and what part of a novel is not composed of these noises consists of a prose which is no more alive than that of a competent newspaper writer or government official. A prose that is altogether alive demands something of the reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.
T. S. Eliot
It may be safely affirmed that there neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.... They both speak by and to the same organs; the bodies in which both of them are clothed may be said to be of the same substance, their affections are kindred, and almost identical, not necessarily differing even in degree; Poetry sheds no tears "such as Angels weep," but natural and human tears; she can boast of no celestial ichor that distinguishes her vital juices from those of prose; the same human blood circulates through the veins of them both.
Invisible prose only!" rules out the sparkling style of [writers]... For [whom] vivid prose, and the visionary mind it evinces, rich with speculation, insight, and subjectivity, is the craft and offers a unique caliber of truth. Is there any other art form one would praise by saying it's "invisible"? By definition, art transcends the ordinary, calls attention to itself, and offers virtuosity as its calling card. One that makes it possible to do what metaphor does so well: illuminate what can't be wholly understood.
The definition of good prose is proper words in their proper places; of good verse, the most proper words in their proper places.The propriety is in either case relative. The words in prose ought to express the intended meaning, and no more; if they attract attention to themselves, it is, in general, a fault.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The difference between prose logic and poetic thought is simple. The logician uses words as a builder uses bricks, for the unemotional deadness of his academic prose; and is always coining newer, deader words with a natural preference for Greek formations. The poet avoids the entire vocabulary of logic unless for satiric purposes, and treats words as living creatures with a preference for those with long emotional histories dating from mediaeval times. Poetry at its purest is, indeed, a defiance of logic.
Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper. Over the last few years, writing a novel on tight finances, I came to appreciate the enormous differences in the material demands between poetry and prose. As we reclaim our literature, poetry has been the major voice of poor, working class, and Colored women. A room of one's own may be a necessity for writing prose, but so are reams of paper, a typewriter, and plenty of time.
In general, when a novel manipulates its material to conform to the pieties of the day, or alternatively to attack those pieties for no other reason than the visibility such an attack will generate, when its literary tropes are all too familiar, its clever prose reminiscent of other clever prose, then the compass needle is slipping away from true north... When, on the other hand, the author renounces some easy twist, some expected payoff, to take us into territory we didn't expect but that nevertheless fits with the drift of the story, then the novel gains force and conviction. And when he or she does it again, telling quite a different story that is nevertheless driven by the same urgent tensions, then we are likely moving into the zone of authenticity.