A few years ago, while plodding through a revision of my novel (revisions require the writer’s equivalent of heavy-duty hiking boots), I got bored by my writing. It was too literal, too realistic, too earnest, and too flat.
Most writers are all too familiar with this feeling after a red-eyed reading of a draft. I needed a way to literally jar my narrative sensibility. I needed jazz, punk rock, Jackson Pollock, Merce Cunningham, something.
Around this time, I read a quote by Emily Dickinson that remains among my favorite writing advice: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”
I started reading poetry avidly and discovered that by focusing on the exquisite “slant” poetry offers, the “truth” I was trying to capture became more piquant, surprising, nuanced, playful, and meaningful to me.
So, in honor of National Poetry Month and Poem In Your Pocket Day, here are my 10 reasons prose writers should read—and hopefully write—poetry.