Because prose is usually lengthier than poetry and frequently offers superficial understanding, a typical audience, whether it be a collection of students or casual readers, is generally not motivated to analyze works of prose further. Due to this, prose is often associated with an abstract notion of a story and left uncredited for implementing poetic devices. However, upon further scrutiny, both mediums utilize the same devices. Most commonly, poetry is accredited with careful diction and use of white space, however, prose often employs the same devices just as readily and successfully. Though a limitless number of examples may be called upon in prose’s advocacy, a brief and most relevant demonstration necessitates only a few well known writers, namely the modernists Ezra Pound and E.E. Cummings, Iceberg Theorist John Steinbeck, and the contemporary artist Don Di Lillo, as their comparable aims stretch across literary movements and specification on poetry or prose.
Poetry is reputed for careful word choice, usually because space is limited within a poem, therefore, a poet attempting to create a mood must ensure his diction is relevant to his purpose. For example, let us examine one of the most notoriously meticulous modernist author Ezra Pound, in his acclaimed “In A Station of the Metro” relies on fourteen words to capture the image and feeling of very specific woman. Pound refers to this woman as an “apparition”(1), denoting a deathly creature and connoting her notably bleak spirit. Furthermore, though “apparition”(1) describes a wayward woman, the word itself is not dissonant, just as suffering females was at that time common. Therefore, that particular word describes the looks and also feeling of that woman, highlighting the deeper modernist concern with gender roles.
However, of American prose’s most notable introductions, the beginning of “Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck, employs the same strategies of Pound’s poem. The first words, “Lee Chong’s grocery”(1), reveal food’s importance for the dwellers of Cannery Row and therefore assists in illuminating their impoverishment. Also, the attribution of being a “miracle of supply”(1) demonstrate the inhabitant’s simplicity and sheltering, as they crudely refer to available food as God’s work. After this sentence, more is arguably known about the looks and human condition of Cannery Row’s inhabitants than that of Pound’s metro goer, though both works relied upon the same basic principles.
Poetry has also been known to make clever use of white space, perhaps most poopularized by the modernist E.E.Cummings, one example of his work being “Buffalo Bill’s”. One line contains only “defunct”(2), a dissonant word, it’s separation creating special attention and importance to the notion of something unable to function properly. Conversely, another line has “onetwothreefourfive”(6), using an absence of white space to show the swiftness in which the words were uttered. Poets have long since manipulated the addition and subtraction of white space in order to visually demonstrate their meanings and assist in creating a stronger response from their work.
However, prose relies just as heavily on white space exploitation. Often times writers, particularly modern ones, will separate one sentence from the rest of text in order to demonstrate the significance of a a thought. In Don Di Lillo’s “Cosmopolis”, after a traditional paragraph follows: “Let them see each other clean, in killing light”(124). The sentence’s isolation highlights its crude humanity. Furthermore “clean”(124) and “killing”(124) are also linked due to their similar consonance, driving the idea of brutality even further. Neither does prose clump words together to form arbitrary walls of text; their placement is just as important as with poetry. For example, Di Lillo may write a series of sentences drawn together to form one paragraph in order to explain a person’s rambling, or if the sentences are loosely related, to show the disjointed nature of human thought.
Poetry is art describing the human condition, whether it be through human action or through describing nature through a human’s eyes, relies upon diction and syntax to create a mood, and often times manipulates white space. Therefore, it only follows that prose is a sort of marginalized form of poetry that most people fail to recognize. Though one should not be valued above the other and may serve different purposes, it should not be forgotten that both poetry and prose may be equally ingenious and complicated. It is not so significant whether poetry or prose is being transcribed as whether the author is capable and willing.