I once heard a fiction writer quip, “Are poets really writers?” I imagine she had never tried her hand at crafting a sestina or sonnet. It’s not as easy as she might think.

Several weeks ago, I was featured in Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides. Robert Lee Brewer has a series called  “Why I Write Poetry.” There’s a word limit so I didn’t get to the part about how writing poetry deepens and enhances writing prose.

Writers can learn as much from Keats, Jonson, and Frost as a webinar on plot or setting or a workshop on characterization. I would even say, writers could learn more. If they could only get past the stigma of believing that poetry is stuffy or silly or impersonal.

POETRY IS UNSELFISH

Good poetry offers a new perspective on life, empathy for your experiences, summarizes a belief, previews a future, cleanses your pain, gleans from the ancients, wears the sands of time, holds hands with the heavens, and breaks bread with the simple folk as well as the heavily laden. Poetry serves you.

Even if it isn’t eloquent or delicate, is has the potential to reach through the inked pages or screen and touch you. At first, you will not know why. You must peal away the layers to be blessed with the richness of the cadence of words. Prose should do that too.

POETRY INSISTS ON RESPECT

Staring at a blank Word document or a sheet of paper and free writing whatever your heart spills, is simplistic. Puzzling those pieces into a quatrain of iambic pentameter is a thing of beauty and brings many a poet to her knees. If you don’t respect the genre, it won’t respect you back and your writing will suffer from lack of esteem or value. Same goes for prose.

POETRY IS PATIENT

It doesn’t demand. It flirts. It coddles you. It is a secret message that was written personally to you. It reaches inside you and breathes for you when you can’t. Poetry is okay with not being the star of writing genres. It knows its own worth and waits for writers to listen and learn its charms and sage advice. Savor it. Prose can be equally alluring. Learn to sit with the words you write on a page and ask if it is written to take from the reader or give to the reader.

POETRY BREAKS THE RULES WITH STYLE

A stuffy fiction writer is stuck on rules. Poetry teaches her how to play by the rules and then like the rebel it is, it guides her onto a new path. It shows her how to turn the corner without stumbling. And then it woes her to the open dazzling fields of motion, technique, style, and voice.

POETRY RECOGNIZES THE STRENGTH OF WORDS

In poetry, words serve more than one purpose. Because poetic forms often have word limits, poets learn to choose their words wisely. Each word must not only express meaning, each must enhance pacing, balance, tone, and prosody. (I love that word.)

You don’t have to shell out your pennies to read great poetry. Here are a few links to get you started:

Poets and Writers

Poetry Foundation

Academy of American Poets