Hello all, after 4 weeks away it feels great to be back again with you all. One of the advantages with vacation is that you have time to read, and this is what I have done. This year I have read novellas, short novels that often have grown to fame later on. I’m sure that many of you read them back in school, but the Swedish canon did not include the same books. One thing that I thought about is how poetic, prose can be, and it made me think about what really is the difference.

Portrait of Natasha Nesterova (On a Garden Bench) by Mikhail Nesterov

Portrait of Natasha Nesterova (On a Garden Bench) by Mikhail Nesterov

First of all a text use the familiar poetic devices such as rhymes, meter, alliteration and repetitions. Maybe prose use a little bit less, but still it is always there, and many pieces of poetry is not overloaded with these either. As a matter of fact many of the Meet the Bar prompts could have been used for prose as well as poetry.

How about line-breaks and punctuation then we might ask?, for sure poetry looks different on a page, and we have discussed that before at a previous Bartalk. But on the other hand there is prose poetry that looks exactly like a piece of prose, but we immediately know it’s poetry.

Then there are metaphors and similes, but prose can contain a lot of those as well.

So if it’s not about how a text is written it could be, why it’s written. Is the purpose different maybe? The prose should tell something, a story or a narrative, tell about facts or give a statement. But poetry can can have the same.

Take a snippet of prose like this from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness:

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

To me this paints a tableau that could just as well been poetry as prose, but now it gives us a place just before Marlow enters the narrative. It gives color and emotion, but the purpose is to place the character in the scene.

When researching the internet I see that this has been discussed for ages, and to some extent it might be a meaningless topic, but I would like to hear from you, poets and authors, what’s the true difference between prose and poetry?

Maybe the difference is just how a librarian classify your book.