Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finding Poetry in Prose

By Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy

One of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, primarily known for his short stories, has been called a poet, and actually published several books of poetry. But it is actually his prose 
for which he has been called a poet.

Here’s a sample from his story “There Will Come Soft Rains” from the book “The Martian Chronicles”. I think you will understand why his prose is considered poetic:


The nursery walls glowed.

Animals took shape: yellow giraffes, blue lions, pink antelopes, lilac panthers cavorting in crystal substance. The walls were glass. They looked out upon color and fantasy. Hidden films docked through well-oiled sprockets, and the walls lived. The nursery floor was woven to resemble a crisp, cereal meadow. Over this ran aluminum roaches and iron crickets, and in the hot still air butterflies of delicate red tissue wavered among the sharp aroma of animal spoors! There was the sound like a great matted yellow hive of bees within a dark bellows, the lazy bumble of a purring lion. And there was the patter of okapi feet and the murmur of a fresh jungle rain, like other hoofs, falling upon the summer-starched grass. Now the walls dissolved into distances of parched weed, mile on mile, and warm endless sky. The animals drew away into thorn brakes and water holes.

It was the children's hour.

The story was actually inspired by a poem, which Bradbury included in the story:

Nine-five. A voice spoke from the study ceiling:
"Mrs. McClellan, which poem would you like this evening?"
The house was silent.
The voice said at last, "Since you express no preference, I shall select a poem at random."
Quiet music rose to back the voice. "Sara Teasdale. As I recall, your favorite….

"There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
if mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone."

Reading prose by authors like Ray Bradbury can help you learn the cadence of poetry, and see new ways to describe everyday events and things. In this acrostic poem, I explore that idea:

Books are everywhere in every form and format
Read aloud or silently, by eye or mouth or finger
As ubiquitous as air or water, and as necessary
Don’t think books have to be binary or paper, though
Books are written in nature and cultures and minds
Unless you learn to read the writing on the world
Reading the scribblings on pages is fruitless
You miss the spirit if you only look at the letters

Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy is a freelance writer and poet living in the upstate of South Carolina with his wife and four children. To find his daily poetry entries, log onto: 

or find him on Amazon here:

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