What distinguishes a poem from a novel?

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The poem and the novel are two entirely different literary forms. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a poem is defined as a 

...piece of writing that usually has figurative language and that is written in separate lines that often have a repeated rhythm and sometimes rhyme.

Some poems are essentially narratives, telling a story, while others address a single theme or topic. Poems are usually (but not always) shorter in length than novels, which are, in short, books. Aside from length, a novel always tells a story--it is fundamentally a work of fiction. A novel usually covers a certain timeframe, even if not in a linear way--it begins with an event and ends with an event. Perhaps most important, novels are written in prose form. They are not concerned with rhythm, rhyming schemes or many aspects of poetry. Many poems and novels address the same thematic issues--Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" and Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front each make an almost identical point about war--but they have very different stylistic and structural elements. 

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What distinguishes a novel from a poem?

Length, form, and function. Novels are longer, usually arranged in chapters, and they serve a different purpose than poetry. Poetry is meant to convey it's message through the lyrical use of words and language techniques. There are a few different ways to write and organize novels, but poetry comes in a variety of forms structured, non-structured, rhyming, non-rhyming, and etc. I'm wondering what has prompted this question.

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What distinguishes a novel from a poem?

A poem is developed around a controlling metaphor and usually has a singleness of purpose.  Its structure differs greatly from a novel, for it does not always have a sequence of events or a development of a character or characters.  Often a poem is limited to feeling or a single impression.  Poetry is the language of feeling; novels may be expressions of abstract concepts rather than feelings.

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What distinguishes a novel from a poem?

The main difference between the poem and the novel is the care in which words are selected.  They are selected as much for their sound as for their meaning.  The meaning, though, is to portray experience in a heightened, concise way, and most often does not develop an intricate plot or flesh out the characters.  We appreciate poetry for the intensity of feeling, the insights, and the quotable lines.

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What distinguishes a novel from a poem?

Similar to a short story, a poem is ultimately the attempt to capture a single moment/focus on a particular experience; there is only room for a single arc, and this limits and sharpens focus. The words of a poem must be chosen with extreme care, as the author is not just representing, but distilling -- sloughing away detritus until the essence of the subject remains. In a novel, there is time for many moments and many experiences. An author can tackle a more complex arc, or a series of arcs, and the overall impression/effect becomes more important than the line.

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What distinguishes a novel from a poem?

Of course the obvious difference is length--although Homer's The Iliad and Dante's Inferno and Cervantes' Don Quixote are all long works in verse form.  Let's assume we're not talking about these kinds of works for the sake of this comparison.

Another difference is development of plot.  A poem may or may not have a narrative (tell a story), while a novel always does.  It has characters and places and happenings, which a poem may or may not have.

Poetry is generally, as the post above suggests, created by using figurative and/or rhythmical language.  Novels generally have those elements, as well, but they are diffused throughout the novel rather than condensed into something more compact.

While the message of a poem and a novel may be the same, the form clearly is not.  Poetry is compressed and compacted; novels are elongated and elaborate.  For me, though, a novel generally provides an opportunity to have a relationship with characters (and learn more about myself) as they live the lives the authors have given them, while a poem generally invites me to sink into an image or an idea or a feeling which also gives me an opportunity to learn more about myself and my connection to the world.

This was more difficult than it sounds, and I'm not sure I really said what I meant--but there it is.

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