Thursday, 8 October 2015

Poetry vs Prose

For Steven Heighton, the difference between writing poetry and prose is "the ratio of pain and pleasure involved":
Working on a poem is always, on some level, a pleasure, and I think one of the main reasons is that there's no risk and hence no anxiety involved. Why? Because a twenty-line poem is a small thing, physically, and I know that if it doesn't work I can just walk away from it. Also, the "career" stakes couldn't be lower. Few people read poetry, so my livelihood can't and doesn't ride on it. Fiction is different. People do read it, and publishers sometimes pay decently for it, and you actually can make a modest living from it, if you have sufficiently low material aspirations. So there's always a touch of anxiety there. It's not just play. Plus, it's simply hard to walk away from a botched piece of fiction without agonizing over all the time and effort you've spent. To give up on a thirty page story, after months of work—as I've had to do at least twice now--is painful. To walk away from a three hundred page novel you're struggling with after eighteen months or three years—that's just about unfaceable.

1 comment:

Susan Glickman said...

My experience is the inverse: I have felt fully satisfied with a few poems in a way I never have with a piece of prose, because a poem is sufficiently short that it is possible to get all the sounds rhythms semantic meanings and images working together in a way that seems finally "right."