On the Mixture of Forms

I envy poets.

I don’t “get” poetry, and honestly — I don’t go out of my way to read it. It doesn’t resonate with me as a reader, and I absolutely cannot wrap my mind around it as a writer. I wrote poetry as a teenager (please, feel free to laugh) and it was awful. I’m not just being self-deprecating here. There was no rhyme, reason, or rhythm to the poetry I wrote — it was just a sixteen-year-old girl ranting with arbitrary line breaks.

The thing is, the poets I know who also write prose have some of the most gorgeous, intelligent prose that I’ve ever read. I imagine it has something to do with the form: that whole rhyme and rhythm thing. I feel like when a poet sits down to tell a story, they’re still bring that poet’s sensibility to the way they present their words. And the end result is something that makes me utterly green with envy.

(Obviously, I’m generalizing a bit — I’ve known poets who had some trouble getting their thoughts out using prose.)

I’m frequently told, “Oh, you should try it; it’ll inform your writing.” I firmly believe that. A form that requires you to use every word for the maximum amount of feeling? That encourages multiple meanings? That provides multiple forms, from the old school to the mathematical? As a writer, I can’t see a downside.

It doesn’t stop me from being daunted. The very idea of poetry ties my stomach in knots. It feels like I’m expected to scale a wall without any safety equipment. It strips all the things I feel comfortable with in my writing — characters and dialogue and setting — and instead demands the introspective of me. I could write poetry as a character, sure; I could tell a story instead of reflecting on my feelings. (I have a friend who does both these things, and well.)

I am a person with a lot of feelings, but the starkness of feeling that (I feel) poetry requires is a bit much for me.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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