Poetry For Fiction Writers, Part IV: Some Suggestions

Part I was what not to read, Part II was a discussion of meter, Part III was all about sonnets.

This part is going to list some poetry that I think is worth study. A note before I list examples, though.

Reading poetry is a learned skill. Sadly, it is not one that most Americans learn because most Americans aren’t exposed to any poetry worth reading. Unless you grew up, like I did, in a home with a lot of books of poetry lying around, probably your only experience in poetry was a grade school teacher reciting the lyrics of “Imagine” and telling you to think about your feelings.

Fiction involves certain conventions. You have to learn to accept that a narrator is “telling” you a story. You have to learn to read quoted material as speech from a character. You pick up on when a gap of time exists, and when the action has changed scenes. Mostly we learn these things so young that we’re not aware that they were ever learned.

Poetry also has certain conventions, mostly due to the constraints of space and form. It’s a very dense medium and that takes getting used to. The language tends to be both more metaphorical and more abstract than prose. Poems often start (and sometimes end) in media res so that you have to pick up on what is going on right away.

Read slowly.  If you can do so without freaking out your coworkers or children, read them aloud.  Take time to savor the words and get a feel for the structure. And give yourself time to adapt to the form.

I can’t tell you how to read poetry.  You have to develop your own feel for the medium. All I can do is encourage you to make the effort. The list below is deliberately wide in terms of style. It is not meant to be definitive, just a few places to start. These are mostly my personal favorites, but I think most readers could find something on this list to spark their interest. A few are on the rather far end of “formal”, but I think that none quite cross the line into Blank Verse. The walls are there, once you learn to see them.

Some Suggestions.

“Ozymandias”, Percy Bysshe Shelley

“The Listeners”, Walter De La Mare

“The Haunted Palace”, Edgar Allen Poe

“Recuerdo”, Edna St. Vincent Millay

“The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock”, T S Eliot

“The Ballad Of Reading Gaol”, Oscar Wilde

“Mending Wall”, Robert Frost

“Darkness”, Lord Byron

“anyone lived in a pretty how town”, e e cummings

“The Tyger”, William Blake

“The Hunting Of The Snark”, Lewis Carroll

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Writing, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Poetry For Fiction Writers, Part IV: Some Suggestions

  1. You have damn good taste in poetry with that list there!

  2. Who’s your favourite? If you can choose just one, that is.

  3. Gonna read all of these.

  4. Anonymous incognito4444 says:

    Are many of these poems available digitally?
    Also what are your thought on Paradise lost? I’ve read a ittle bit of it and i liked the rythmn but is it Milton ‘s attempt to imitate Ovid? Or does his epic poem follow English metre and prosody?


  5. Mary says:

    The Three-Decker!

    By Kipling

    Well, actually I recommend it in particular because of its content, which you may find interesting:

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