Alison Lock - Poet, Writer

'Like a gentle voice in your ear, these poems speak of love 
and life and pain and war with words so precisely-chosen 
they will make you tremble' - Laura Sheridan.

Blog: Of Words and Wings

'creating a new way of looking..' Tim Taylor on poetry and prose.

Posted on March 7, 2014 at 6:45 AM

On Beyond Wings I am interested in writers who write both poetry and prose. When I talk to other writers I find that they have different methods and ideas. Here, T E Taylor tells me about his processes, the way that he generates ideas and the differences he finds when writing poetry and fiction.

His interests in ancient history have led him to write his recent epic novel 'Zeus of Ithone'.

Please welcome T E Taylor

Fiction and Poetry

Thank you Alison for inviting me onto your blog to talk about writing fiction and poetry. Here are a few thoughts about the similarities and differences between them.

For me, writing always begins with an idea. This is as true for poetry as it is for fiction, but the kinds of ideas that work for the two forms can be very different. For fiction, the idea may be an event, a problem, a person, even a place. The idea for my historical novel, Zeus of Ithome, came from reading about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from slavery under the Spartans. It seemed to me that theirs was a story crying out to be told. One idea tends to generate others, and characters started popping spontaneously into my head: a young runaway helot forced to leave those he loves; an ageing rebel unsure how to precipitate revolt. These in turn generated new ideas, and quite soon they coalesced into a rough plan for the novel. The writing became quite easy once that was in place – the characters started to write it themselves.

In poetry, the ideas are typically more ‘micro’ than ‘macro’ and sometimes more abstract. One thing that often works for me is the juxtaposition of two apparently unconnected things, which reveals hitherto unsuspected links between them, creating a new way of looking at something. But having those ideas is not something I have always found easy: for this reason I used to go a long time between writing one poem and the next. However, this changed once I joined a group which did writing exercises every week. I found that being presented with a task or some words or objects as stimuli for thought, then forced to write something in half an hour often generated ideas that I would not otherwise have had. Even if most of these ideas are not worth pursuing, the best will often provide the material for a poem.

Poetry is rightly associated with the concise and innovative use of language, with every word chosen carefully, paying close attention to their sound as well as their meaning. Some people think this is what distinguishes poetry from prose. However, I’ve never thought of this as a hard and fast distinction: good prose can also display those same virtues. What is true is that typically (with exceptions) prose pieces are longer than poems, and lengthy prose, including fiction, is subject to other requirements that don’t sit easily with the density and intensity that one sees in poetry. It needs to be easily read and understood by the reader, to aid the flow of the story and to fit with its context. But carefully chosen passages of prose invested with some of that richness of language and imagery that we associate with poetry can be very effective at pivotal moments of a narrative.

Which do I prefer? Difficult to say. Writing prose is perhaps easier and more straightforwardly pleasant – something I can happily settle down to do for a whole day. I write poetry more sporadically, in surges of enthusiasm when I am captured by an idea or in periods of struggle, worrying at a piece that is not quite right yet. But it can be hugely satisfying when it comes off. I will always want to do both, I think.

 Tim can be found on Crooked Cat Publishing website here.

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Reply Rachel J. Fenton
11:04 PM on March 8, 2014 
Absolutely agree with this: "carefully chosen passages of prose invested with some of that richness of language and imagery that we associate with poetry can be very effective at pivotal moments of a narrative." Thanks for this post, Alison and Tim - much enjoyed reading your thoughts, Tim. Kindest, Rae.
6:41 AM on March 9, 2014 
Thank you for the response, Rae. Yes, I agree, Tim expresses the use of poetry within prose very well. I find this approach fascinating. :)
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