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Using poetry to enrich your prose

French writer and philosopher Voltaire wrote that poetry is the music of the soul. He also said, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”

Besides being an end in itself, poetry also helps me dream up ideas for the novel I’m writing.

Some people create storyboards or collages to help them brainstorm. I’ve done this but, recently, I wanted to delve deeper into an idea I was developing so I decided to write a poem about it.

Poetry is all about getting the right words in the right combination in a small space (well, at least smaller than a novel). Poetry is about condensing details and sense impressions, and using metaphor to evoke an emotional response in our readers. When I write poetry, it forces me to go deeper into my subject and think of it in new ways. I can relate to what Voltaire said because poetry becomes an echo that stirs up images and ideas on the periphery of my original idea or thought that I may not have otherwise seen.

In my book, I wanted to explore the idea of Native American animal mythology. For my first poem on the subject, I chose the salmon to write about. I pulled images from my childhood and combined them with some research to create my own mythology around the salmon. What I ended up with was not only a deeper sense of how I could use this theme in my book but also a beautiful poem. Bonus.

The next time you want to explore a theme or idea in your novel or other writing project, try writing a poem about it. Even if you don’t consider yourself a poet, the act of writing a poem will bring you deeper into your idea and very possibly spark a creative fire.

For more poetry inspiration, read about my process as a poet and two reasons for keeping a poetry journal.

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