Difference between Prose and Poetry

Difference between Prose and Poetry

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Prose vs. Poetry

A French poet and critic, Paul Valery, compared prose to walking and poetry to dancing. We walk in order to go from one place to another. We do it for a particular purpose. When we walk for exercise, we do it for the improvement of our health. In other words, walking is utilitarian, that is, it is something that we do with a purpose in view. We are talking about ordinary prose and not literary prose. The ordinary prose is like walking. We use words to give information, to get something done, to make someone do what we want him/her to do, and so on. In ordinary prose, what is important is the message. But this is not the primary consideration in literary prose. What is important also is how language is used, how ideas and emotions are communicated and how the style suits the content.
When you go to see a dance, you are not interested in seeking information. When you see a good dance, you enjoy it. In other words, the objective is enjoyment and not mere information or instruction. When you like a particular dance, you go and see that dance over and over again because every time you see it, you get a new aesthetic experience. In the case of literary prose and poetry, you have what you call your favourite passage or poem. You read it several times and you and are not tired of it. If it is an ordinary prose passage, the moment you understand the meaning, you don't want to read it again. In literary prose as well as poetry, it is not just the meaning that is important, but also the medium. It is often difficult to say what is more important, the form or the content. There is, however, an inseparability between the two, a togetherness. This is exactly the meaning of the Hindi term 'Sahitya'. 'Sahitya' literally means 'togetherness'. It is the togetherness of the sound and the sense, it is the togetherness of form and content. This is what is unique to great literature.

In dancing, every gesture is important for the position that it occupies in that particular dance. No one posture is more important or less important than another. Each gesture contributes to the total effect of the dance. In the same way, in a good poem or a piece of literary prose, every word is important for the position it occupies in it, and contributes to its total effect. Again, in a good dance, when the dance is on, you cannot distinguish the dancer from the dance. In any great poem or passage of literary prose, it will be difficult to separate the effect of the medium from the effect of the message. We do paraphrase a poem, but the paraphrase of a poem is not the poem. A prose piece can be paraphrased, summarised but not a poem. The meaning of the poem is the meaning that you experience every time you read the poem and you cannot say of any poem that you've exhausted it. The 'literariness' of a particular poem or prose piece lies partly in this quality A literary piece usually has layers of meaning, for the writer works through suggestion, allusion, imagery and other such devices. The use of literary devices alone does not make a piece "literary". What is important is the way in which they contribute to the unity and thereby the final effect of the piece. Every time you go to it, you get a new meaning, a new aesthetic delight. This is mainly because of the connotation of the words in poetry

Difference between Prose and Poetry

In Conclusion

The prose is direct or straightforward writing. Here the writer communicates his/her thoughts or feelings as clearly and precisely as possible. On the other hand, poetry which is generally written in verse leaves a lot of things unsaid and to the imagination of the reader. The prose is like walking - that is, it is functional and provides information. Poetry, on the other hand, is like dancing and aims to delight. A prose piece can be paraphrased or summarized but not a poem. We can and do paraphrase a poem, but the paraphrase of a poem is not the poem In prose, what is important is the message but in a poem what is important is the experience conveyed rather than any meaning or information.


I hope this explanation will help you to understand the difference between prose and poetry better.

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