Poetic Licence - What Prose Writers Can Learn from Poetry

Attending a masterclass with Catherine Smith by new Chalk Circle member Margiad Eckstein


A page-turning novel may be driven by the well-tuned engine of plot, character and structure, but after we’ve turned the final page what lingers? A satisfying ending? The excitement of the unexpected? Perhaps the best stories show us new ways of looking at old truths. But what do we revisit and re-read?


Often the most memorable, hypnotic passages of prose are those that we find beautiful, and often they are beautiful because they are poetic. A moment of truth is captured in a few lines; the images startle us, and the pulse of the moment is echoed within the rhythm of the lines. Prose writers can learn so much from poetry, that ancient and most enduring of art forms. And who better to teach us than guest workshop leader Catherine Smith, the award-winning writer and teacher, whose work, The Times said 'cuts her free of the crowd.'

Guiding us through a variety of imaginative writing activities, Catherine enabled us to experiment with new approaches to the plots, places and characters we were developing. By the end of the masterclass, we had invented new metaphors, and discovered fresh meanings and symbolism within our writing, re-energising our ideas and stories in progress.


Above all, Catherine encouraged us to read our work aloud, and to engage with the sound and the rhythm of our writing.


It doesn’t always follow that a successful writer makes a successful tutor, but Catherine gets it exactly right, drawing on her wealth of tutoring experience from Sussex University, New Writing South, the acclaimed Arvon Foundation and The Poetry School where she has tutored both in traditional classes and online.

Sharing writing can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when that writing is straight off the page, still raw, still shaky. With Catherine, we were soon at our ease but also ready to take on new challenges, and to see new possibilities within our existing work. The masterclass was inspiring, and every moment was worthwhile.


Catherine Smith is a judge for the 2020 Shoreham Wordfest competition. https://www.shorehamwordfest.com/events/poetry-and-short-story-competition


For more information on Catherine’s writing visit https://catherinesmithwriter.co.uk





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