Fiction and poetry are often treated as different types of writing—and they are. I think, however, that the most beautiful writing happens when the two intersect. Poetic passages within fiction that paint an emotive, vivid picture transport our minds and souls. Poetry that tells us a story as well as affects us can teach us more about ourselves.
Think of the famous Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Part of the magic is the story that unfolds and the wondering where else this character (and you) might go on this journey. Likewise, “Howl,” by Allen Ginsberg, tells us a story about the people he knows and meets:
“a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars”
In fiction, some of my favorite passages are those moments within the narrative where the writer stops to paint a poetic moment or landscape. An example is Flaubert’s description of a burning bouquet in Madame Bovary:
“It blazed up like a handful of dry straw, and then lay glowing like a red bush on the ashes, slowly crumbling to pieces. She watched it burn. The cardboard berries popped, the wire writhed and twisted, the gold braid melted, and the paper blossoms, shriveling up, hovered a moment like black butterflies and at last flew up the chimney.”
In my mind, it is important to see how the two exist hand-in-hand.