Literary Forms (1/2): Poetry and Prose


Definition: Poetry is a form of literary art that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language to evoke meaning in addition to, or in place of, prosaic ostensible (apparent, seeming, superficial) meaning (ordinary intended meaning).

Poetry has been traditionally distinguished from prose in terms of the fact that it is set in verse (prose being written in sentences).It is cast in lines.
The syntax (rules) of prose is dictated (governed) by meaning: while poetry is regulated by the criteria like metre on the visual aspects of the poem.
Before 19th century, ‘poetry’ referred to something set in metrical lines. Accordingly, in 1658, a definition of poetry is provided as:

“any kind of subject consisting of rhythm or verses. “

Possibly, under the influence of Aristotle (his Poetics), prior to the 19th Century, “poetry” was less used as a technical term referring “verse”. It was used to mean “a normative category of fictive or rhetorical art. “

As a form, poetry originated far before the advent of literacy. The earliest poetry were composed and sustained by an oral tradition. Hence, poetry constitutes the earliest example of literature.


Prose is a form of language that possesses its ordinary syntax and natural speech, rather than rhythmic structure; in which regard, alongwith its measurement in sentences rather than lines, it differs from poetry.
Richard Graff classifies prose into three major categories:
1.novel– a long fictional prose narrative.
2.novella– in terms of its length Novella exists between novel and short story. It can be classified as a fictional prose normative “too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story”.
3. Short story– it can be defined as a fictional prose narrative that is short enough to be read from beginning to end without stopping. It has its distinct size, subject matter and structure.


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