Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Can Writing Poetry Help An Author Find Their “Voice”?


Writer’s Voice is one of those terms that seems to change its meaning depending on who’s talking about it—almost as if “Writer’s Voice” were capable of sensing who’s writing about it and letting that author’s Voice decide what “Writer’s Voice” means

For me, writer’s voice is “simply” the way one puts the words down.

If an author stays rigidly within a genre, the way they put words down is constrained by their experience within the genre.

And, speaking of genre, the previous post, What Is A Genre & Should You Try To Write In One?, is where I add my writer’s voice to the discussion

If a particular writer has a work classified as science fiction yet reading it feels substantially different than most sci-fi you’ve read, the book was either put in the wrong genre classification or, even though it could be fairly called sci-fi, the author’s voice is unique enough to raise the work above hackneyed-genre.

So, what does poetry have to do with helping a writer find their voice?

Well, The Atlantic recently published an article by Dorothea Lasky called What Poetry Teaches Us About the Power of Persuasion.

To me, an author’s voice is the main thrust behind their power to persuade—persuade in a forceful voice or one which woos or perhaps a deceiving voice that misinforms to persuade away from

Then, there’s Ms. Lasky’s subtitle-sentences:

“Logic and grammar are important. But for students to truly own the English language, they need to read and write poems.”

Certainly seems owning language would improve voice, eh?

Let me share a few more excerpts from the article in an attempt to persuade you to follow its link:

“…if someone is telling you that there is a set and finite way to construct a sentence—and you’re a poet—you will naturally get a little annoyed. And you will be justified in feeling this way, because it’s simply not true.”

“I have found that all students can write. And one of the surest ways to awaken their love for language is poetry.”

“A lot of people argue that poetry is ‘difficult’ or that it has no real value for childrens’ future. That’s just not true. If you think poetry isn’t important to your students, you are not listening to them. You are not noticing the headphones in their ears, blasting poetry to soothe their walk to class. You are not thinking of them in their rooms at night, writing down their experiences. It may be that you are defining poetry too dogmatically.”

“…in a poem, a student not only has the freedom to express a new idea, but to do so in novel language he or she has just created. More so than any other type of writing, a poem takes into account the indispensable dimension of well-chosen words.”

“A poem is not just a place to present a student’s grammatical knowledge (in fact, it is often the space to subvert it!). Poetry, more than any other form of writing, trains students to take into account the style of language.”

Yes, Ms. Lasky is talking about students, because she’s a poet and a teacher; but, any author who stops learning is an author that just might lose their voice
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14 responses to “Can Writing Poetry Help An Author Find Their “Voice”?

  1. Jane Watson October 16, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Sometime ago I read that when Tolkien was unable to write, he tried turning his prose into poetry…he said:

    “…If you cannot write the prose in a convincing manner, try composing your thoughts in the form of verse.  It will cause your brain to think deeply about the phrasing, the structure and the literary devices needed to excel in writing prose…”

    I found this intensely interesting and have been trying to do this myself lately…
    I also loved Dorothea’s’s article linked to here. I myself have used one of Kenneth Koch’s book on writing poetry to teach poetry to students whose first language was not English. They loved it. They loved using this foreign language, English, that they were having trouble mastering, to create a poem.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai October 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

      It appears, Jane, that Ms. Lasky agrees with Tolkien and may have been influenced in her own work by him

      And, as far as teaching English poetry to kids who are just learning English—it’s, to me, a natural way to let them “play” with the texture and feel of the language before they concern themselves with the “laws” :-)

      Like

      • NefariousCurry October 21, 2012 at 1:06 am

        The best time I had with language classes were when our teacher would just let us play with words. I think that’s where I got my love of Nash and Neruda’s style.

        Like

        • Alexander M Zoltai October 21, 2012 at 1:09 am

          Yes, Neffie, playing with words—I do it every time I write :-)

          Like

          • NefariousCurry October 21, 2012 at 1:24 am

            I can’t write for anything but I still find myself randomly playing word games when I’m bored. Sometimes not even realizing I’m doing it.

            Like

            • Alexander M Zoltai October 21, 2012 at 10:36 am

              Are you absolutely sure you can’t write?

              Like

              • Nerdley November 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm

                No, to be blunt.

                Like

                • Alexander M Zoltai November 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

                  Thank you for your comment, Nerdley.

                  Like

                  • Nerdley November 10, 2012 at 2:24 am

                    Gah….I hate wordpress sometimes. It keeps flipping me between Neffie and Nerdley. Pffffft.

                    Like

                    • Alexander M Zoltai November 10, 2012 at 9:24 am

                      Aha, so it’s Neffie! :-)

                      Like

  2. Rahma Krambo October 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you for this insightful article. I’m in the beginning stages of my second book and the MC’s voice is something I’m developing. I love the idea of using poetry to bring this aspect out. I sort of gave up writing poetry years ago, but you’ve inspired me to try again.

    Looking forward to delving into your blog. Your article was featured on my #amwriting paper.li journal. That’s how I got here.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai October 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Rahma,

      Very glad to hear that the post let you bring one of your talents back to life :-)

      And, paper.li is very cool

      Like

  3. Pingback: Writing from Your Center ~ Authentic Authorship | Notes from An Alien

  4. Pingback: What is “Author Voice” ? | Notes from An Alien

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