poetry vs prose

Poetry and prose are two of the most fundamental forms used in literature. Prose is a written form of language that does not follow any set poetic meter or rhyme scheme, while poetry follows specific metrical patterns. This article will teach you how to distinguish between these two forms so you can better understand what you’re reading or writing.

Table of Contents

What is prose?

Prose is a written form of language that does not follow any set poetic meter or rhyme scheme. It’s a style used in writing prose (a type of literature), journalism, and biographies to express facts clearly so the reader can comprehend them easily without getting lost, along with complex sentence structures with obscure metaphors.

Types of prose:

Nonfictional prose – conveys information and describes events or actions in a factual, accurate manner. Nonfiction is any written form of literature that shares knowledge about non-artistic topics. It’s often referred to as “factual” writing because the author has made every effort to tell what happened and why they think these things occurred.

Examples of nonfictional prose include newspapers, articles and essays on various subjects, biographies etc.

Fiction/Literature Prose – This kind deals mainly with fiction novels, including short stories all under one umbrella category called Literature. The goal is to immerse the reader into a world where they can see themselves as characters and be so realistic, making them want more of this fictional story. Examples include Harry Potter Books.

Heroic prose – This prose form is meant to be recited or read aloud, as in a theatre before an audience. Examples include: Shakespeare plays.

Prose poetry –  This is a genre of poetry that has prose incorporated. Prose poems often break up into short paragraphs or sentences, and the way they read aloud can change depending on how it’s being spoken to people in public vs privately with just one person. Examples include Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg – Howl.

What is poetry?

Poetry is typically created without the use or intention for it to be recited aloud. It is intended for a silent, solitary consumption.  It is also usually created with the intent of being emotional and powerful; therefore, it will not necessarily contain dialogue between characters or action sequences that might make for easier reading aloud.

Types of poetry

  • sonnets, which typically contain 14 lines.
  • Haiku – A traditional Japanese style of poetry.
  • Narrative – Prose in story form.
  • Acrostic – A poem in which the first letter of each line spells out a word or phrase.
  • And free verse, which does not follow a set meter or rhyme scheme.

Check out this article we posted earlier that lists 20 different types of poems with their modern examples.

poetry vs. prose

  • The difference between poetry and prose can change depending on how it’s being spoken to people in public vs privately with just one person. 
  • Prose follows natural patterns of speech, while poetry has deliberate patterns such as rhythm and rhyme.
  • Prose adheres to standard grammatical standards and practices, utilising sentences and paragraphs, while poetry will often stick to a formal metrical structure. 
  • Prose uses everyday language, whereas poetry prioritises figurative language.
  • Prose will often be more structured and organised, whereas poetry may not follow a single narrative or pattern.
Language Figurative common
Structure Lines and stanzas Sentences and paragraphs
Intent To express or amuse To inform
Nature Imaginative Pragmatic
Shape depends on the poet large block of words
Paraphrasing Not possible Possible
Rhyme and Rhythm Can use rhythm and rhyme Doesn't use rhythm and rhyme

The function of prose:

Prose convey information in a way that is as clear and easily understandable to the reader or listener. Prove aims for smoothness of expression and relies on clarity with sentence structures, often following standard grammatical rules. They are easier read by people who may not have years of experience reading poetry.

Prose use cases:

Journalists often use prose to convey the essential facts about a news story. When people want information that they can immediately apply or use, such as cookbooks, they rely on prose rather than poetry. Their focus will often lie around how something tastes and looks instead of any literary value.

Prose is straightforward; it gets the point across without any fancy complication or unneeded extras like metaphors which can sometimes be confusing if you don’t know them beforehand! Some people also find prose much simpler aesthetically since poems often use very uncommon fonts.

Examples of prose:

“To be, or not to be? That is the question,” by Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play is a good example. Another famous example of prose would include “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.” This sentence has no punctuation, and its letters are only capitalised at their beginning for emphasis on each word respectively. Instruction manuals, books for children, and plays to communicate their ideas also fall under prose.

Another famous example of prose is the Declaration of Independence. Although it is a formal document, it still counts as prose because the sentences break up by periods and commas with no need for punctuation, such as: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” This sentence splits into two different parts, each using its own comma; this denotes an independent clause instead. 

The difference between poetry vs prose can often come down simply to word choices (especially ones from another language).

Poetry use cases:

When an author wants to express their feelings about an event or a particular topic globally, they use poetry. The use of words is much more personal than prose which means that emotional appeal take centre stage, and there’s less concern for being understood by everyone else on earth as longs it speaks its intended audience. 

Poetry can be shared orally rather than written down because spoken word connects better with emotions versus reading something from paper. We have time to think critically without really understanding what they say at face value (something poetry relies heavily upon).

Examples of poetry:

Amanda Gorman’s Presidential inaugural poem,” The hill we climb”, shook up the world because of its powerful message. “The new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” The message comes at a time Americans needed an emotional epiphany.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is another example of a classic poem many people love.  In this piece, the speaker describes two paths but considers only one (the road less travelled) before making his final decision and choosing not to take either way.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost

Now that we’ve covered the basics, which do you prefer? It isn’t easy to pick a side between poetry and prose because they both have their advantages. I hope you found this article informative and helpful.  I want to take a closer look at prose poetry in a future article, so be sure to subscribe below so you don’t miss it.

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