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Where is the line between poetry and prose? Where is the line between poetry and prose?

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ask996 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Poetry by its definition is a rhythmic lyrical use of the English language. Prose can have rhyme, rhythm, and artful construction. However, in poetry it is the rhythm and artful construction that move the entire piece along. Whether rhyme is included or not the conventions are the body of most poetry. Prose uses other conventions to drive the piece.

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If prose has "no meter" or "artful construction" why are so many words in English composed of iambs and how is it that figurative language abounds in the writings of such as Thomas Hardy and many others?

I concur with the "line" as the definitive mark of poetry.

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enotechris eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The line between poetry and prose is literally a line! Prose (from Latin, Prosa) means "straightforward discourse," whereas Poetry, composed of verse (from Latin, versus) means "a turning of the plow," or furrow or line.  (Definitions from American Heritage, Dell Publishing Co.) Or at least that's the classical definition.  And here I was always thinking the difference was if words rhymed or not, like 

There once was a girl from Nantucket
Who went to Hell in a bucket

would be considered poetry, but....

The young lady, arriving on the Massachusetts mainland after the tumultuous ferry crossing, weary and nauseous from her journey, although descended from a long line of hardy Nantucket seafarers, had, while sporting the attire of her trade, including 5 inch spike heeled red shoes that had pockmarked the ferry's deck to the consternation of her captain as she unsexily but sickly wobbled about, slipped down the gangway and tripped on the dock, landing headfirst into a carelessly discarded 5 gallon white plastic pail, the impact instantly snapping several cervical vertebra and causing her quick demise; but to her shocked amazement, having always piously done unto others as she would have been done, even as an island girl, found herself (or at least her awakening disembodied essence) in the sulfuric smoldering bowels of Hades

....would not.

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linda-allen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A prose poem is poetic text that often (but not always) ignores the conventions of poetry by discarding line breaks, but does include meter, rhythm, figures of speech and the like. Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud were the first prose poets to gain wide recognition for this style. Here is "The Port," by Baudelaire:

A Port is a delightful place of rest for a soul weary of life's battles. The vastness of the sky, the mobile architecture of the clouds, the changing coloration of the sea, the twinkling of the lights, are a prism marvellously fit to amuse the eyes without ever tiring them. The slender shapes of the ships with their complicated rigging, to which the surge lends harmonious oscillations, serve to sustain within the soul the taste for rhythm and beauty. Also, and above all, for the man who of mysterious and aristocratic pleasure in contemplating, while lying on the belvedere or resting his elbows on the jetty-head, all these movements of men who are leaving and men who are returning, of those who still have the strength to will, the desire to travel or to enrich themselves.

See the book "Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine: Selected Verse and Prose Poems," by Joseph M. Bernstein.


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epollock | Student

Prose, which is normal discourse has no meter, rhyme, or artful construction.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Chambers's dictionary defines poetry as the essential quality of a poem, and a poem is defined as a composition of high beauty of thought or language and artistic form, typically, but not necessarily in verse.

By this definition the main criteria to qualify as poem is "beauty". Unfortunately beauty is very subjective. As Shakespeare it "lies in the eyes of the beholder". But, I suppose, every poem is beautiful in the eyes of its composer, and therefore every composition that the composer chooses to call poetry is poetry.

It is a different that I find lot of poetry, in verse or otherwise, not all that beautiful, so for me that is not a poetry.

In the end if  I find some composition beautiful, I just concentrate on enjoying it, not thinking about whether or not it is a poetry.

frizzyperm | Student

"I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse."

this above is clearly poetry. Is this below...

Her mother shed a tear or two but wasn't really
crying. It was the thing to do, so she did it
enjoying every moment. The bride laughed when I
sympathized, and said don't be silly.

Her brothrs had a shoe of mine and made me pay
to get it back. The game delighted all the neighbours'
children, who never stopped staring at me, the reluctant
bridegroom of the day.

There was no dowry because they knew I was 'modern'
and claimed to be modern too. Her father asked me how
much jewellery I expected him to give away with his daughter.
When I said I didn't know, he laughed it off.