What is the difference between poetry and a short story? I need the answer in 3 to 5 sentences.

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great question to ask and think through. One suggestion I will make is that you post this on the discussion board for literature as you will gain far more responses than if you merely post it as a question.

For me, one useful way of defining poetry is as "condensed meaning." It is literally like a message or a theme that has been condensed into a very small form, but which must be "unpacked" to appreciate the full significance of what the author is trying to communicate.

Short stories are of course shorter than novels, and so they share many similarities with poetry. In both the authors try to get the message across with brevity and in a succinct form. However, poetry achieves this in the extreme - often only a couple of stanzas can be enough to communicate an incredibly complex theme or idea. In poetry authors do not have the luxury of spending time establishing theme and character - they must say what they want to say in as sparse a form of language as possible.

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I want to second the point made by ask996 and add to it. Poetry and short stories may seem very different at first glance, but the differences aren't always easy to piin down. Poems can be very long and/or tell stories, for example, just as short stories can have very lyrical qualities. Edgar Allan Poe's famous comments about the "single effect" of shorter literary works (including most poems and most or all short stories) in "The Philosophy of Composition" seems to suggest that the two may have more commonalities than differences.

The differences become particularly difficult to pin down when writers seek to blur the boundaries, writing things that might best be described as "prose poems." Jean Toomer's Cane is one of the best (if not widely read today) examples, I think.

I thnk one of the best points made so far is accessteacher's comment about the "condensed meaning" in poetry.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Poetry is a form of writing in verse, which usually has a musical quality obtained through the specific use of literary elements such as meter and rhyme, and literary devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, and other vivid forms of imagery. A short story has characters of depth, and a plot that centers, generally, around a conflict of some sort. The two are different in that poems don't have to tell a story and can be about a single brief idea, whereas a short story generally is the exact opposite; but both can convey deep meaning to the audience, often eliciting an emotional response, through the author's careful use of the language as he/she shares a message through writing.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the greatest differences between poetry and a short story is that it always evokes an emotional response from the reader.  This response is generated in the reader of poetry because of the rhythm of the lines, the superb and exact choice of words, and the figurative language which touches upon the very spirit and heart of the reader. Even the  visual appearance of a poem can delight the reader as often poet's arrange a poem to fit the subject

Poetry, too, is often read aloud--and should be.  When the reader speaks the words, there is that communication between the poet and the reader which does not often occur with a narrative that is usually read silently.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A short story tells a story through use of character, theme, dialogue, motif, setting, tone, and narration.  It is typically wordier than a poem, although the two have brevity in common. 

Both a short story and poem attempt to cut out anything that is not needed to convey the author's purpose.  However, a poem is even more brief than a short story.  It has a speaker, a voice who tells its story in as few words as possible, usually focusing on imagery, emotion, and other poetic techniques such as onomatopoei, figurative language, tone, mood, and stanzas rather than paragraphs.

sboeman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A poem attempts to say the most by saying the least.  Poets have certain methods at their disposal, such as symbolism, rhyme, meter, personification, and many others.  A short story, on the other hand, still attempts to convey a theme, but often seems to utilize different techniques, such as setting, tone, characterization, etc.

These two different literary forms share much in common, however, so each of them may "borrow" or "adopt" other strategies in order to maximize the impact of the message.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We always recognize that authors and poets make intentional choices when they write, but it would seem that poets have more pressure to make it just right.  Because a traditional-type poem is concise, it must also be precise.  The connotation of each word, the signficance of the sounds of words together, the length of the line, the structure of the stanzas (or lack there-of) is only a short list of how everything matters in a poem.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both short stories and poetry use the previously mentioned literary techniques mentioned above. I would like to add, however, that their are some forms of poetry that do not focus on things such as rhyme and meter. Free verse does not rely on established meter, blank verse has an unrhymed meter that more closely resembles natural speech, and narrative poetry tells a story.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the above posts, I think even narrative poetry uses more "poetic license" than short stories.  Though many fiction writers get away with the use of sentence fragments or punctuation irregularities, for example, it seems it is a little more widely done (and accepted) with poetry.

thewanderlust878 | Student

Great question! It can sometimes be confusing, as some literary elements are. A short story is essentially like a mini, condensed book. It tells an entire story, but it is much, much shorter (usually only a few pages). Poetry, on the other hand, can also tell a story, but in a much different way. Generally no more than a page long, poetry is usually split up line by line and might not be complete sentences. It also usually has some sort of rhyming device to it, but that isn't always the case.

Hope this helps! 

alysha_w13 | Student

Short stories presents itself as a kind of narrative, thus why its a story and uses devices such as a plot, themes, character development, setting etc. while a poem uses other devises such as meter and rhyming. All of the characteristics of a short story help make a beginning, middle and an end but a poem does not need to be that rational.

bandana | Student

The essential diference between a poem and a short story is the difference of scope.A poem is by nature short and brief telling much in a few words while a short story can be elaborate if the author chooses to be so.He has the licence to use more words than a poet to narrate his subject or build up an atmosphere.

skampani | Student
poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used beautiously to bring out an apparent meaning or thought. It has regularity of metre and a rhyme whereas a short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed and crisp than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels. Many short story writers define their work through a combination of creative, personal expression, and artistic integrity.
salmanameerassadi | Student

poetry is in poetic order and short story in prose order.this is the differnce of poetry and short story.

sroach | Student

A short story, by definition, will contain a narrative--a story--that although brief, will be completed within a concise piece of writing.  A poem, on the other hand, may not contain a narrative.  It is entirely possible for a poem to be a collection of words that evoke a feeling or a mood, convey a description, or communicate an abstract concept--like LOVE--without telling a story.  Many poems are created with strong consideration of how they will sound when spoken; the lyricism of the words, created through a variety of techniques (rhyme, rhythm, meter, alliteration, etc.) is often very important and contributes to the way a poem is received by the reader.

I, too, like accessteacher's reference to poetry having "condensed meaning" but I think a short story, through allusion and symbolism strategically used, can also have a similar intensity.  I am thinking of Tim O'Brien's stories in The Things They Carried as an example.  jk180's assessment--that the differences between the two can be difficult to "pin down"--is so true, and I have really enjoyed thinking about this question.  It is something I hadn't really considered before, and I'm curious to see what my students might say if I toss this out as a class discussion question.  Hmmm...

zumba96 | Student

Normally poetry has a rhyme scheme while a short story tells a story