I saw an interesting post on author Jay Lake’s blog a few weeks ago in which he “recasts” some of his book’s opening lines as poetry. He got the idea from this post by author Jim VanPelt, where VanPelt suggests this as a tool for analyzing one’s use of language on the merits of the language itself, rather than as part of a larger story-centric context.
This is a fascinating idea… and given my recent admiration,as an example, for author Catherynne Valente’s poetic style in her prose fiction, you can imagine that it appeals to me. I’ve always fancied myself something of a poetic writer – one who revels both in alliteration and in extended metaphor. The truth of that self-assertion is, of course, as yet untested. And I know my work isn’t nearly so poetic as the aforementioned Valente’s work. But is my prose writing effective, on its own, as poetry?
I’ve a few short flash-ish length pieces I’ve posted on this blog, and I thought I might play a little with them, and see what happens. The way this works seems pretty simple: punctuation, mostly is an artifact of the prose, so you can leave that out or shift it around a bit. Line breaks can be where ever you want them. The words, mostly, have to be the same words in the same order. I’ve done a few very minor edits in the examples I’ve done – which mostly consists of eliminating words that play a grammatic role but are not meaningful on a poetic level. Admittedly, this makes the words flow slightly better in a poetic sense, so are likely to skew the results a little, but you can compare them to the original.