Poetry in Prose

edited January 2017 in Wordsmithing
Poetry in Prose.
A lot of famous fantasy books - and even the odd sci-fi one - include poetry. It may be an ancient prophecy, 'Three rings for elven kings...', for example. Or maybe in a song sung in the local tavern.
1) Do you enjoy snippits of poetry in a prose work, or do you feel they are best avoided?
2) Have you ever used some poetry as part of a prose story? Feel free to share an example with us.
3) What is your favourite example of poetry in a prose work from mainstream fantasy and sci-fi?

Poetry in Prose


  • Please, just no more eleven singing. epic barbarian or dwarven drinking songs for me.
  • I did include a short 'song'/'chant' in a screenplay. WIthout giving too much away:
    "Beans, beans, the magical fruit."

    I really don't enjoy 'reading' such things, though. Even the LotR songs just rubbed me the wrong way (though I don't mind 'listening' to them on audiobooks).
    As for favorites - I 'might' go with Rhysling's "The Green Hills of Earth" (Heinlein) final lines:
    We pray for one last landing
    On the globe that gave us birth
    Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
    And the cool, green hills of Earth.

    Though, my favorite isn't quite poetry, as a chant - from Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu):
    (original Pnakotic Manuscript): Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
    (best translation):
    In his house at R'lyeh,
    dead Cthulhu waits dreaming
  • I have been experimenting with putting a few lines of poetry at the beginning of each chapter to avoid having to deal with quote copyrights.
  • I like them as chapter intros. It works similarly to putting quotes there. I find when it's in text, I tend to skip it. Even in LoTR. In my one book, however my prophecies are written loosely in sonnet form.
  • As a narrator, I love poetry mixed into prose, but usually hate songs mixed into prose because the prose rarely includes any direction as to how to sing the lines. ;)
  • I actually love the feeling of a deep world, an ancient world. The feeling that people of long ago felt such a love (or hate) for something of their world, that they took the time to write a song (which requires work and is an act of passion).

    I think it adds a layer to the world-building. But, that's just me.
  • When it works it's great, so much atmosphere. Not just in fantasy either, I remember reading Greg Bear's Queen of Angels where one of the characters was a writer, so there were chunks of poetry. I loved it in that, it fit so well and the pieces were wonderfully written in themselves. I'd love to do something like that, but if I did I think it had better be good!
  • I tend to skip it if I'm reading, which is really ironical for me. One of my secondary characters speaks in doggerel verse when the sun's up (OCD vampire, and THIS is how she presents her symptoms? Really?)

    When I read through Raven William's "Realm Jumper" chronicles, I liked how she incorporated poetry in that. All of the "spells" were written as short poems.
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