‘Prose; words in their best order; - poetry: the best words in the best order’ (Coleridge). A reflection on Coleridge’s definition,
Nobody can claim that prose is a somewhat less commendable form of literature than poetry. Prose must still contain a certain amount of veraciousness and technique in order to be created. However poetry requires these things in order to be successful and whilst it is some people’s view that prose is layered with different meanings and is read to be analysed, poetry is simple, often encapsulating intricate ideas using a minimal amount of words; and it is not produced to explain or create an argument but instead persuade the reader through the power of the language it contains and the intricate way in which it is formed. Writing prose is a creative achievement and although it can by inspire the reader, it is read in a much more passive way than poetry. Reading a piece of prose there really is only one true interpretation that belongs to the author, however a poem demands a far greater creative effort. The reader must interpret the poet’s words through their own understanding and experiences, which can often create ideas and interpretations the author never even imagined. As Giovanni Boccaccio writes in his argument for poetry ‘Geneology of Gentile Gods’ (The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001), ‘if one way does not lead to the desired meaning, take another’, Boccacio writing in the 1300s, a time when many poetry had to be defended from the criticisms of it that reached back to Plato’s Republic, explains how an interpretation of a poem is decided by the reader looking at the order of the words, the language used and the final poem created and finding their own deeply personal association with them.
A great poem must not only involve the emotional investment, imagery and surprise that a prose text contains; but they also have to achieve an exceptional use of rhythm, an established or newly created form and a way of...
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