From Poetry to Prose: Writing Outside of Your Genre

The Prague Summer Program is a big advocate of multi-genre workshops, and, as we prepare to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary, we would like to encourage poets considering PSP to pursue new experiences. Be committed to your writing—as you must be if you are reading this blog—and face new challenges as they arise. For poets, we would encourage you to accept the challenge of work outside of your genre.

Working outside of our comfort zones can be a great source of anxiety or discomfort, but growth seldom comes to those afraid of new experiences. If you are a poet—especially if you have never given much thought to writing prose—the Prague Summer Program would like to encourage you to consider writing fiction or creative non-fiction in one of our multi-genre workshops. Here’s why:

  • The language of poetry can often be quite ornamental, decorative, and beautiful. The same can be said of good prose; however, prose often has a more concrete, tangible approach that can challenge, inform, and complicate the ways in which a poet chooses to make meaning.
  • Line breaks can be used to compliment the music or rhythm of a poem, and, for the poet who is not used to making it all the way to the right margin, prose offers a new way of understanding the rhythm—a way that does not include the suggested “lighter” pauses that come at the end of a line.
  • This might be a bit obvious, but poets can contain an image, idea, or concept within a single stanza, sometimes connecting to the next through the use of enjambed lines. The poet working in prose must consider how to navigate similar transitions with a different set of tools, which really helps writers continue to develop their idiosyncratic ways of knowing, understanding, and expressing.
  • The use of commas in poetry and prose is complex, and worth contemplating. For example, a poet might use commas when elongated pauses are necessary—typically this need comes from the music of a piece. When writing prose, the same writer might avoid commas to make the reader feel breathless or to suggest that the narrator is thinking rapidly. They might use commas to suggest the passage of time or to further distinguish dialogue between two dissimilar characters.