Prose vs. Poetry: Key Differences and Similarities

Understanding prose vs. poetry can be a bit murky, because both prose and poetry are a form of creative writing. However, each different type of writing has a unique structure and purpose. Learn the similarities and differences between prose and poetry through a cumulative overview of each. 

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Understanding Prose vs. Poetry

Literature is creative writing in one form or another. Both prose and poetry are forms of literature that present a point to an audience, and both take some skill. Additionally, both prose and poetry use descriptive language like literary devices. However, that’s typically where the similarities between these two forms of writing end. To see how each type is unique, it’s helpful to break them down into their definitions and examples. 

What Is Prose? 

In the simplest terms, prose is everyday writing. It covers all the different types of writing you read daily, from blogs to articles to novels. Prose might be a fictional novel taking you away to a far-off planet, or it could be a non-fictional news article covering the latest natural disaster. It can also be a verbal story. 

Within prose, the writing structure includes sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Additional qualities woven within the text include theme, mood, point-of-view, plot, setting, etc. 

There are 4 common types of prose: 

  • Fictional prose takes you away to a made-up world or story such as The Hunger Games.

  • Non-fictional prose is factual accounts of events such as Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

  • Heroic prose includes oral and written traditions like fables and legends

  • Poetic prose is writing with poetic qualities, such as heightened emotions and imagery, that is not written in verse. One example is Amy Lowell’s Bath

Definition of Poetry

While prose is writing, poetry adds artistic style to writing. Poetry is all about vivid imagery and rhythm. It works to make you feel something or drive a point home. Poetry writers select their structure, rhyme scheme, pattern, and words with the purpose of arousing emotion. 

Rather than sentences and paragraphs, poetry uses lines, stanzas, verses, meter, stress, patterns, and rhythm. It offers an artistic way to present emotions and events. 

Poetry comes in several different forms, but the common types of poetry include: 

Prose vs. Poetry Examples

The real proof of prose vs. poetry is in the examples. When you look at examples of prose and poetry side-by-side, their structural differences come to light. To view apples-to-apples, check out a prose poem vs. a sonnet. 

Information by David Ignatow

This tree has two million and seventy-five thousand leaves. Perhaps I missed a leaf or two but I do feel triumphant at having persisted in counting by hand branch by branch and marked down on paper with pencil each total. Adding them up was a pleasure I could understand; I did something on my own that was not dependent on others, and to count leaves is not less meaningful than to count the stars, as astronomers are always doing…

In Ignatow’s work, first notice the use of complete sentences in his work. Additionally, he breaks up the work into a paragraph form. While the writing is creative and unique, the format is definitely a prose piece. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

In this Frost poem, the structure is much different. The lines of the poem follow the AB rhyme scheme throughout. Additionally, each line begins with a capital letter regardless of whether it is starting a new sentence. 

Difference Between Prose and Poetry

Once you see a prose and poem together, it is easier to see the difference. Just to make sure everything is clear, this table offers a useful guide. 

Prose

Poetry

Written in sentences and paragraphs

Written in lines and stanzas

Normal language patterns

Artistic language to express thoughts and emotions

No limit on words

Word limits

Doesn’t use a rhyme scheme or rhythm

Can include rhyme and rhythm

Easy to understand

Can take dissecting the words to understand the meaning

May or may not be used creatively

Used creatively and artistically

Similarities and Differences Between Poetry and Prose

Since poetry and prose are forms of literature, they have a few similarities like being used creatively and having different types. However, when it comes to their structure and purpose, they are quite different. Since you know how to spot prose vs. poetry, you might give essay writing a try. 

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