I hate poetry. I’ll come right out and say it. I don’t hate what it represents, I just hate doing it and I hate reading it. Why? Because it’s too much work.
What I do like, at risk of sounding like a hypocrite, is poetic application. If a story drops a line or two on my in short bursts, it leaves me with a warm fuzzy feeling.
Ever watch a movie or read a book and get to a specific moment or line and a flush of warmth comes to your face? That is what poetry can do. That is where poetry in novels shines.
So to be more specific, I hate sustained poetry—poetry in bulk. I’m too lazy to pick through every line in a novel for deeper understanding. I’m just not that deep.
I’m going to use and example that may carbon date me here, but remember “A Christmas Story?” In it the Main Character, Ralph, was very excited about a decoder ring. He choked down gallons of Ovaltine to secure it only to find the ‘secret message’ demanded he drink more Ovaltine. That’s how I feel when I read something bogged down by poetics.
This doesn’t mean I think poetic prose has no place in novels, it just means that I don’t appreciate the author wasting my time with pretty explanations and analogies about boring things. I think the best poetic prose finds beauty in simple moments amongst the mundane. The effect is lost when every moment in the storytelling is poetic waxing.
I know a lot of people hate ‘rules’ when it comes to writing, but don’t let hatred of limitations choke your writing to death.
Here’s a neat little trick.
Try taking a chapter from your story and replace all poetics with ‘boring’ straightforward writing. If the result is uneventful and dull, it means the scene is dull. Pretty words are not a cure for a boring scene.
If you have an interesting scene despite the simple words, this gives you an opportunity to find meaningful moments. This lets you bring those forward and plant seeds of intrigue. Generally, having too many seeds will keep any one from sprouting.
The more I write the more I appreciate and identify ‘moments’ in writing. I’ve always had greater appreciation for it in movies and television (example: the overwhelming sensation invoked from the opening notes of John Williams music) but it’s harder to pick them out from written word—just the way I like it.