Prose versus Poetry, structure of

Prose versus Poetry, structure of – Prose is written language whose structure is that of ordinary speech.

Prose is opposed to poetry, which is language structured by a scheme other than that of ordinary speech. Such schemes include:

  • RhymeAssonance and consonance
  • RhythmAccented and unaccented syllables; number of syllables
  • Shape – Where line breaks occur; “concrete” patterns that represent physical objects or complement emotional readings

The three levels or dimensions of prose are:

  1. Exteriority: External Detail – What’s going on in the world. (Cormac McCarthy only writes external detail. Very dangerous! Can get very boring. But he pulls it off.)
  2. Interiority: Internal Reflection – What’s going on consciously in the heads of one or more characters. (In In the Cage, look at how amazingly Henry James sums up what is going on in our little hero’s head as she reflects on her life, her options, her colleagues, Mudge, Everard, etc. Her every thought is said to us more beautifully than she would or could ever really think it.)
  3. Stream of Consciousness: Direct Thought – What’s going on below the level of consciousness in the heads of the characters. (Damn tea the tea is too strong the tea is so hot until it mysteriously cools to nothing to lukewarm pap right there melting the paper cup the cup reminds the hand of the skin of the cat and where does winter dwell in the cat’s bones it is so content to lie on the sill and watch the unfrozen birds escape their work for the vicinity of the sun—and damn if I didn’t wish to do likewise.)
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