If you normally write fiction, poetry may or may not be something you think much about. Maybe you’re so absorbed in mapping out your story-world, developing your characters, and fine-tuning your plot that you feel like writing poetry would be a distraction. After all, novel-writing is hard work, and takes focus. Why should you divert your creative energy into trying poetry?
I’ll admit now that I’ve written poetry for longer than I’ve written fiction. I don’t get absorbed in poetry-writing like I do with my novels. In fact, though I do consider myself a poet, I really don’t write poetry as often as I would like. The inspiration comes randomly and typically out of nowhere. But every time I find myself writing a poem, I can feel that I’m doing something constructive—not only for my growth as a poet, but for my fiction-writing as well.
Writing and reading poetry changes how you handle writing prose. I’m confident about that. Poetry stretches your descriptive power, and makes you search for a way to put a twist on everyday thoughts. When I write poetry my awareness of clichés and tired metaphors skyrockets. Practicing these skills definitely crosses over into my prose-writing.
Goals for poetry are going to vary according to the poet—and according to the poem. A lot of the time, the poems I write are simply capturing a mood. I’m fairly abstract, and I don’t often write about specific situations or issues. A lot of the time I can’t really explain what a given poem is about, because it’s more about creating an emotional atmosphere than anything else. If I use what I’ve learned from writing poetry and apply it to my prose, I can create a vivid atmosphere for scenes in my novels.
You might have a more literal style. Supposing you write in plainer speech about definite subjects. You’re still improving artistically if you put thought into your work. You’re still playing creatively with words, learning to see things from unexpected perspectives and through new metaphors. This will force you to see situations in your fiction from new angles—which can do nothing but good for your prose and overall creativity.
So, even if you think you don’t have a talent for poetry and that your creative writing skill is limited to fiction, I would encourage you to try your hand at poetry even if it’s just as an exercise. And you might find you like it enough to continue composing poems for their own sake.
On a quick final note, I have an announcement to make. I really haven’t hyped this much, but I’ve just released a small book of my own poetry on Amazon. If you read poetry at all, check it out. I’m excited to finally share it with my readership.