Why Poetry Before Prose?

I do not remember when I first started writing poetry. I do remember that I was quite young because my mother has shown me scraps of paper on which I have scribbled stuff. Today, to me it all looks like gibberish but she insists that it is poetry. When she says this, I am reminded of the words of William Wordsworth – Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity. And honestly speaking, that is what poetry has been to me over the years. To me poetry is not just creativity but a natural expression of my emotions. It is both cathartic and therapeutic. 

When people think about poetry, they often believe that poems have to rhyme or that they need to use metaphors to convey deep meaning. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Poetry is so much more than just rhyming words because it is a form of expression that satiates your soul. After I stared to seriously write poetry I found that it changed me as a person. It changed my outlook because I started to observe things more minutely, my approach became more detail oriented and also I learned to express myself better. Poetry helped me to delve into myself and discover a potential that I also did not know existed. 

I often advise friends that if they want to start writing but do not know where to start, then they should start with poetry. Some of these friends have balked at the idea and questioned me – Poetry? Seriously, are you crazy? Others have said – No, no, I am not a poet. I know nothing about poetry. I don’t know how to write. I can’t do it. And, yet there are those who embraced the suggestion and took to poetry like a bird to the skies. They have tapped into their creativity and unleashed their inner potential, just like I did, and today they are churn out fantastic verses.

Now you may wonder why it is that I recommend poetry as a starting point. Well, it’s because poetry is something that comes from the soul. Although, like in prose, in poetry too we need to follow the rules of grammar (punctuation, prepositions, figures of speech etc) but the rules are somewhat loosely defined. We have a bit of lee way when it comes to poetry and thus even people who are often given to making grammatical errors in their writing, can write prolifically in poetry. 

As I wrote more poems I discovered that there were so many different forms of poetry. Depending on the mood I was in or the setting, I learned to distinguish what form or style of poetry would fit the text. Truth be told, I also read up a lot on it. There were a lot of new poetry forms that I was introduced to on #penmancy like rich rhymes, Villanelles, Haikus, Limericks etc and I lapped up all the knowledge hungrily. As I wrote more, I realized that my poems started sounding better and better. I got better at tapping into my emotional well and pulling from it.

But, it was not so always. Initially writing poetry that others would like and enjoy was difficult for me too. The words would not come and even if they did, they were often repeated in all my poems. So, after a point when I re-read my previous work, it all started sounding the same to me. That really depressed me. However, that was when I realized that good poetry was not just about emoting but was a lot about emoting with the right vocabulary. I realized that vocabulary in poetry mattered more than in prose because in poetry we have a limited format to exhibit our feelings in. Once I understood this fundamental point, I started researching synonyms, rhyming words and syllable counts. That has helped me to structure my poems better and also imparted a lyrical quality to them. 

Poetry and prose and two very different writing styles, so when I started writing short stories, I used to find it difficult to shift my style from stanza to sentence. I often found myself writing sentences that rhymed because that is what I had done in poetry. It was really quite difficult to switch off the poet in me and get her to don the story writer’s hat. How I managed that? Well, I started writing poetry which was different from my usual style. I experimented. Actually, I experimented a lot and a lot of the experiments were dismal failures. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot, and many of them on #penmancy too. But, along with the mistakes came the learning. Although, I messed up a few poems, I went right back to that style of poetry and kept writing new poems till I had a reasonable understating of the format. That is what eventually helped me. 

Although I am still learning but I feel that I have been able to successfully use poetry as a stepping stone to transition into writing short stories and articles. It is thanks to my leg work in poetry that I can today appreciate prose. Today I not only enjoy writing poems in different styles but also enjoy writing short stories. 

So, how about you? What stage are you at? Will you take the leap of faith, believe in yourself and start emoting on paper? Or, will you transition from poetry to prose, like I did? Trust, me once you take the leap, there is no looking back. It a steep curve but it is filled with immense learning and people who are willing to mentor and help. It’s actually pretty poetic!
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Sonal Singh

Sonal Singh is the Founder/Director of a manpower search firm called Rian Placements. She dabbles in travel and writing. She believes that life is a repertoire of anecdotes strung together in a colourful array, like a beaded necklace. The various situations that we encounter, the many incidents of every day, make life a melange of tales and conversational tidbits. And, this is what she attempts to capture through her writing.

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