Once upon a time, I was at a conference, and the faculty member/poetry judge (who was an English Lit prof) said something to the effect of "It doesn't necessarily have to make sense, as long as the language is beautiful."
To which I recoiled, aghast. (Which is a fun word, in itself. Aghast. It's even spelled in a fun way.)
As said last week, or the week before, I'm all about the story. If the art doesn't serve the story, it should be excised. However, I'm a novelist. I'm not even very good at short stories, much less short-shorts, and flash fiction? Fuggeddaboudit. (Or however that's spelt.)
When I was in high school, my English teacher gave an assignment to rewrite Beowulf as a Western. I wrote 13 pages (front-and-back, college-ruled paper--and I write pretty small), and wasn't through. I have never been a short-storyteller. But, I think there IS a place for pretty language that doesn't necessarily serve the story. Poetry.
I don't read a lot of poetry. It's not really "my thing," and--as in many other areas, I have what's considered rather plebeian taste in poetry. I like rhythmic, rhyming stuff. Things that are almost songs, just in the words. And I like poetry a lot as song lyrics. There's some pretty bad poetry in lyrics, but there's some good stuff out there too.
Thing is--and I don't think this is a contradiction--I don't like song-stories, otherwise known as ballads, very much. I like the older ballads well enough--things like The Highwayman or The Ballad of New Orleans--but things like "Lucille" or "A Boy Named Sue"? Not so much. Because once I've heard the story, I've heard it. I don't want to hear it a bazillion times more, even if it is set to music. I know how it comes out. (When combined with my antagonism toward monotonous boring music, this makes "Ode to Billy Joe"--the old 60s song about how "Billy Joe McAlister jumped off of Tallahatchee Bridge"--into my most despised song Ever.)
I'm sure y'all can name any number of exceptions, but I really prefer songs that--like poetry--create an emotion. A moment in time. A bit of "this is how I feel at this moment." Poetry is, to me, more like painting and music. Ephemeral stuff that bypasses the logical left brain and does a whammy on the emotive right brain--except poetry uses words and so has to bring the left brain in on it. Even poems like "My Last Duchess," by Robert Browning (which is a favorite) is about a moment. It tells a story, but it's still a moment in time, a kick of emotion.
So--poetic words can have their place in a novel, by creating moments of emotion. But in a novel, they have to serve the story.
I'm not sure I've made any sense at all here. I know I've wandered all over the place and probably haven't conveyed what I was attempting to say--but I tried.
Oh, and it looks like I may be going back to a more regular PT job. The girl who took over during my "leave of absence" is departing at the end of next week, and I'll be back at the newspaper on a more regular basis. Not sure how I feel about that, but... We'll get by.