16.11: What is Poetry?

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard

This is how we begin our master class
on poetry, with Amal El-Mohtar:
With not one question, but two.

  • What is poetry?
  • What is prose?

Yes, both questions are a trap.
Or maybe two traps.
But definitely a beginning.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson


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A Map to the Sun, by Sloane Leong

8 thoughts on “16.11: What is Poetry?”

  1. Wow that’s awesome. I’m glad you’re changing gears. I’m very much looking forward to this poetry master class. I know very little about that subject but I am very intrigued.

  2. I love poetry, but I’m not so great at writing it, mostly due to lack of practice, so I’m excited!
    Curious though about any/all of Amal’s thoughts on older poetry, older works, like by dead poets. Not necessarily the value of them, but what can we learn from them. I’d love to know her perspective as a poet.

  3. Looking forward to more, since understanding poetry will help my prose. How often do characters recite poetry, sing a little ditty, or throw together a funny couplet? (A lot, of course!) Learning a touch of poetry will up my confidence creating these other things. Thanks, Amal!

  4. When Amal asked what poetry was, then tried to define prose, I was reminded of the last line of an Archibald Macleish poem, Ars Poetica, “A poem should not mean. But be.” For me this means the point of the poem is the poem. It is like a snapshot. Prose is more about the narrative, like a piece of film. The poem can have a story, but the story is in service to something else. In prose, the story is king. My 2 cents, do with it what you will.

  5. I love it! After the masterclass could we get an episode just about roasting “The Da Vici code”? It would be very educational to young writers about what NOT to do In fiction.

  6. This week, Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard started Amal’s master class, focusing on the question of poetry. What is it, and how is it different from prose? Lots of interesting discussion, and a final hint of what’s coming, with the comparison of poetry and prose to singing and speaking. You can read all about it in the transcript now available in the archives.

  7. Howard Nemerov’s “Because You Asked About the Line Between Poetry and Prose”

    Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
    That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
    Riding a gradient invisible
    From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

    There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
    And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

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