The other day, the Magic Dragon came up to me and said, plopping into a nearby chair, “I have very big problem. There’s something I want to write, but I don’t know whether I should use poetry or prose.”
“Well,” I replied, “that is a decision only you can make. However, perhaps I can help you think through the problem. First, what is the difference between poetry and prose?.”
“Prose is the plain, ordinary writing we use every day,” Dragon said. “We write in sentences grouped in paragraphs.”
“Exactly! And poetry is more specialized. It uses lines instead of sentences and stanzas instead of paragraphs. When people think of poetry, they often think of songs, something that uses patterns, has rhythm, and is often about important ideas or beautiful things. Poetry also uses what we call poetic devices — metaphor and simile (ways of making comparisons) or alliteration or rhyme (ways of playing with sound.)”
“I know all that stuff,” Dragon said. “But how does that help me choose the right form for what I want to write?”
“It all depends on what you are trying to do or say. If you give someone directions to your house, you want them to clearly understand what you are saying so they don’t get lost. Your main purpose is to give information and you would probably write your directions in prose.
On the other hand, if you want to tell your mother how much you love her, you could write her a prose note saying that. But, aren’t you really trying to share more than simple information? Don’t you want her to feel something (joy or happiness perhaps)? If so, poetry might be the better choice.”
The Dragon shook its head, “I understand all that but I’m still not sure which one I want to use.”
“I have an idea. Let’s write something together in prose and then write it again in poetry. Let’s print the results below and ask our readers which one they like best and why? Maybe we could also ask them to send us copies of their own experiments writing the same thing in both prose and in poetry.”
“Okay,” said the Magic Dragon. “That’s a great idea! Let’s do it! Readers, here’s our experiment. Now you do it and send us yours!”
Prose: One day I was walking home from school carrying the painting I made in art class. It was a picture of our house, which is white with green shutters. I had painted the house’s black roof and red chimney against a blue sky. I also painted my mother’s rose garden and my dog Bingo in front of the house.
I was very proud of the picture and couldn’t wait to show it to my mother. But when I turned the corner to my street and startled our neighbor who was watering her garden, Splash! She accidentally sprayed my whole painting. All the beautiful colors ran together. My painting was ruined!
Art class painting
sings in blues and greens
between my happy hands.
From white-cloud skies
to brown paper pup
I’ve made my dreams be real!
A corner turned,
then a startled yelp.
Water sprays over all.
White clouds blacken
while rainbow rivers
turn dreams to puddled mud.