I find writing poetry is a great way to jumpstart my creativity and hone my writing skills. In poetry, every word counts. Part of the process lies in finding the best possible way to communicate your ideas in the fewest possible words, rooting out the cliches and coming up with the most powerful images possible. The habit of writing this way in turn affects my mystery writing.

 

Does anyone here write poetry as well as mysteries? Any thoughts on this topic? Coincidentally, it's the subject of my latest blog post, "Seven reasons I love writing poetry,"and I invite you to visit.

 

Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

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I don't write poetry, but I read a lot of it and yes, I think it can really help.
I write and publish poetry in my other life, and I think the skills you mention (compression, aiming for originality of thought, finding the compelling image--and maybe some others: attention to rhythms, the ability to invent with metaphor) definitely shape my prose-writing. Whether that shaping is for the better or not is another question: I certainly prefer to read writers in any genre that pay attention to language, know how to do description, know how to illuminate with metaphor. But that sort of thing may not be everyone's cup of tea. In fact, as we've said here many times, if the Dan Browns of the world are any indication, the quality of the writing has no connection to commercial success.
Wonderful response, Jon. I agree, rhythm is very important. I like to think quality of writing makes some difference in the marketplace, but I agree with you about Dan Brown. Danielle Steel's prose is an even more horrendous example.
I actually do think that the quality of the prose can make a difference out there, and that to the extent that I write decent prose (arguable, I know) it's helped to make up for some of my deficiencies as a crime novelist. When I get the plot thing down, watch out!
I read virtually no poetry, and my writing of poetry consists of an annual year-in-review Christmas message to friends. Ken Bruen has written a lot of poetry, and says it has influenced him down to how the words appear on the page. He gives this as the reason he separates list items in his books by putting them on different lines instead of using commas; it gives him the "look" he wants.
Not the same thing as far as I'm concerned. But let's not forget that prose can be beautiful and rhythmic on its own account. Also, in my case, introducing the occasional passage that reproduces Japanese poetry or poetic imagery is a matter of bringing setting/culture to life.
This is a great question. I thought I was the only one who went into the poetry books for a bit of inspiration when things got a little dried up, usually after the second bottle of Cliquot. Poetry and music. I wrote the opening to The Finger's Twist to Van Morrison's music, Madam George. I re-sparked Free Form Jazz, a dying novel, with Paul Butterfield in the middle of the night. But, poetry. My preferences are Denise Levertov, Babel, and Laura Lush. When I needed to put a facet to a female character, I thumbed through Laura Lush's book The First Day of Winter. When I read: "Should fox appear/red-tongued on the snowdrift/and wolf, eyes yellow and shining/at my door/by all means open it/I have let worse in", I wound up with a wolfish character named Jerry Fucking Kelly and almost -- almost, i have to take some credit for this stuff -- made the entire novel called Spicetown. I'm not saying that outside influences write the novel, but the break in language and traditional thinking presented by going completely off the grid can help; it can free your mind and, if you use it wisely and carefully, can present a new direction to your sometimes addled brain. Of course I have to say that seeing an oily puddle under the Gardiner Expressway also provided a spark for a scene. Influences are there if you want to look for them, but certainly poetry is a good release and a good release. For what its worth. Lee Lamothe
Lee, I like your music references. I'm curious about "Free Form Jazz" - did you finish and publish it?

I don't read much poetry - I prefer it in the oral/aural tradition at open mics. Most of the poetry I read comes from chapbooks and self-published books I buy at nominal prices from the poets.
I don't write poetry myself, but some of the classic authors I love such as Thomas Hardy were also poets. I think writing poetry adds a smoothness to written prose, as well. Good prose of any kind reads like poetry or music. It is smooth and flowing not choppy.
Hardy was a fantastic poet. Didn't hurt his prose to be one.
I forget which biographer said that Abraham Lincoln mastered prose by writing bad poetry. I would agree that poetry makes it inescapably clear to the writer what works and what doesn't work.
Great responses, everyone. Lots to think about here. Abraham Lincoln's example is an excellent one - I hadn't known he wrote poetry, but his speeches are certainly poetic.

Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

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