Hello, friends!

Today I’m taking a break from my usual discussion of tropes to talk about another favorite element of storytelling: poetry.

We’ve all seen this—in fact, some may argue that poetry is overused (looking at you, poeticized prophecy). While I can agree to an extent, I also make the argument that poetry is a useful tool in moderation.

Poetry in Moderation

What exactly does that mean?

Well, “moderation” is a subjective term. Some like poetry more than others. Flowery language, lovely descriptions—a picture is worth a thousand words. This was incredibly popular among writers in decades past. (Charles Dickens anyone?)

However, I’ve begun to notice a shift in the market. Children and teens complain about the excessive wordiness of the books and plays they’re forced to read in school. Adults admit that they skim over the long ballads and page-long descriptions of setting.

While the market seems to be leaning towards longer novels, it also seems to be leaning away from poeticized wording. Readers seem to want a happy middle ground.

Poetry as a Tool

How can we, as writers, find that middle ground?

First of all, let’s acknowledge here and now that we cannot please everyone.

Now that we’ve agreed, let’s move on.

Poetry is certainly still useful. After all, we can agree that Taylor Swift, NF, and most singers in existence use poetry in their songs. Take this verse, for instance, from Taylor Swift’s “Getaway Car”:

It was the best of times, the worst of crimes
I struck a match and blew your mind
But I didn’t mean it
And you didn’t see it
The ties were black, the lies were white
In shades of gray and candlelight
I wanted to leave him
I needed a reason…

If I didn’t know this song (by heart), I would think this was a stanza in a poem. And what about J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous poetic lines from The Lord of the Rings?

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them

We can all agree that these are beautiful, of course. That’s the main function of poetry: to please the eyes and ears. However, there is another function of poetry that is incredibly useful to the writer.

Poetry sticks in the mind.

Stuck in the Mind

Alliteration, rhymes, repetition, even rhythm and meter—all of these things contribute to memorization. It’s the same reason that songs get stuck in your head.

According to an article by Srini Pilay, MD, at Harvard, “earworms [songs stuck in your head] rely on brain networks that are involved in perception, emotion, memory, and spontaneous thought.”

Have you ever heard a song in the grocery store and begun singing along, only to realize you only know the catchy chorus? Perhaps you’ve read a novel with a scenic description that you simply couldn’t get out of your mind? Or maybe you’ve heard a one-liner rhyme and found yourself repeating it later in the day?

It’s little moments like these, little phrases and songs and verses, that stick with us. Poetry is especially memorable because of the emotion and feeling it invokes in the reader or hearer.

The Why

So why is that important?

Because we want to be remembered.

Don’t shy away from that. It’s true! As writers, we want our work to be remembered by those who read it. We want our words to burrow so deep in our readers’ hearts that they’re still recommending our works to their grandchildren someday.

Is that possible, you ask? Is it truly possible for someone as unknown and average as me to write something worth remembering?

Yes. Without a question. All of us have something to bring to the table, including you. We all have unique perspectives and stories to tell, so don’t hold back!

Do you want your words to stick in your readers’ minds? Do you want to learn how to use poetry to your advantage?

Come back next week for a lesson in poetry I’ve learned from my mentor and teacher, Brad Pauquette! Want a reminder? Drop your email here and I’ll drop a reminder in your inbox!