Poetry Vs. Narrative

Writing is a form of art.  Be it prose or narrative, the writer is attempting to communicate; no different than the painter using oil as a medium.


 The concept of ‘painting with words’ applies to all writing.  The writer needs to move away from the ’structural’ restrictions so many adhere to; those external controls (i.e., format, tone) that restrict how ‘abstract’ our paintings can be.


Poetry facilitates the communication of feeling through visual perception to its maximum.  In other words, poetry, far better than narrative, allows you to choreograph the reader’s eyes across the page by the application of structure (word count per line, meter, verse, indentation, use of punctuation, or the intentional lack of punctuation, syllable count, rhyme, near rhyme, etc.) and word choice. Poetry is offering you a pallet of colors to paint feelings from. By the use of this choreographing you are not just imparting words, but invoking the same cues the recipient would get if he/she listened to you read it – your voice inflection – and watched your body language.


 To illustrate my comment, here is a piece of narrative from the novel Through a Stranger’s Eyes:


However, before I could meet Breen at the park I had to make a quick trip to New York City for an early morning meeting. I went up the previous afternoon by train. Taking the train is a great experience, and far more relaxing then flying. The view from the train is an optical exercise in extremes; countryside foliage and harsh urbane blight. The tracks once laid in vibrant manufacturing areas and behind working class neighborhoods, now reside in wastelands of rusted metal and aged bricks. But the view from the train’s window affords a truthful look; the naked truth of what our city fathers hide from investors, from the tourist magazines, and from themselves.


(Through a Stranger’s Eyes, Copyright by Steven S. Walsky, 2005, all rights reserved.)


Now the corresponding piece of free verse poetry that was written as a chapter introduction:


View from the train


the rusted metal of bridges now trackless

the steel skeletons seen through un-paned portals of dirty, 

     cracked brick abandoned factories 

the aged wooden, derelict outbuildings 

the unkempt trackside vegetation 

     littered with remnants of life’s voyage

draws you to the past

giving you reasoning to future history, humanity, 

     the life of this country felt with your eyes

your eyes hearing the people who were,

     but now hidden

as we build our beloved suburbia

as we clean up the gentrified city

as we sweep the blood and sweat of their flesh, their tears

under a carpet of what we call progress

(View From the Train, Copyright by Steven S. Walsky, 2005, all rights reserved.)

28 thoughts on “Poetry Vs. Narrative

  1. This is a brilliant example of narrative v poetry!!! I really love prose poems; some people just see a paragraph of words, but to me everything is lyrical in writing, (sometimes it’s just not that obvious).

    I can’t believe an actual factual writer and poet such as your good self has stopped by to ‘like’ my blog this week, thank you so much, I am soooooo not worthy!! It must be fate because I love poetry and now I have found you, a new (new to me anyways!) poet to read and be inspired by. I write a teeny bit myself, and I wouldn’t say it was total rubbish……but my Uni Tutors probably would!!

    I may at some point blog about my troubles with Haikus and the fight I had with a Ghazal in last year’s poetry course….the results are alarming, often cliched and of varying degrees of hopelessness. I’ve possibly still got at least another 40 years of my life left to improve though, so big yeah to that!

    • Thank you for your comments, much appreciated. However, I must disagree with your blog self–analysis, you are a Writer, and I enjoyed reading your posts. As for poetry, I rarely write a poem; narrative is my first love. Because I have neglected this blog, I am now posting work from the past 37 years. Poetry is so subjective. Most of my poetry is free form and free verse, which does not sit well with the majority of poets. And, sad to say, Haikus and Ghazal elude me. Oh, so does running…a marathon, that’s an accomplishment!
      Simplicity Lane readers, please stop by: http://wordswithnannaprawn.wordpress.com/

      • Thank you so much Steve, the generosity of other bloggers on WordPress has blown me away, I only started my blog two weeks ago and it’s end of semester so I should really be revising for exams!! I wondered why I’d just had 19 hits when I haven’t posted anything for a week!! thanks so much for giving me a bit of promo on your blog, that was really kind of you. I was forced to write the ghazal and the Hack-you’s (not at gunpoint you understand) but because they were part of assessment…..hated them! I like writing free verse but have been known to break out in rhyming couplet ditties which drove my tutors nuts ‘because it’s not contemporary’ pffft whatever. That’s like saying if you like music you can only listen to Katy Perry and never ever, ever William Lawes….because he died in the English Civil War. My poetry isn’t THAT out dated! Have a fantastic day, I can’t wait to read more of your blog – sending you lots of good wishes and sunny appreciation from Aus-tray-lee-ah 🙂

      • Your welcome. As for blog hits, the new Reader Page on WordPress has destroyed hit counts. You can read most posts without going to the blog. And you have a great day…night…that ol’ time difference.

  2. So interesting Steve…. thanks so much for adding some clarity to my confused state as a beginner. I began my blog with only photos…then added famous quotations – then a blog friend who happened to be a published author/writing professor encouraged me to write my “own original” quotes — and now I’m moving into some poetry. Always enjoyed creative writing when I was in hs and college – but never pursued it as a real hobby etc. If anything I was more inclined to write a narrative, as opposed to poetry… but being here at wordpress and being exposed to such wonderful talent, I learned ask much and been inspired. I love that you are actually “teaching here on your blog … so wanted to express my personal heartfelt thanks to you. Much Love to you ~ Robyn

  3. in each moment, words form pictures in our minds
    your poem and yes the narrative painted a wonderful picture
    full of color…
    I don’t understand the rules of poetry or narrative writing…I just write
    I enjoy wandering through people’s thoughts they turn into art….
    This was a very good post…I enjoyed it very much
    Take Care…

    • Thank you, your comment is very much appreciated. You already know what I believe is the true secret: start writing. Motivate oneself to communicate through the written word first, and the ‘rules’ will have something to grasp.

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