How to Convert a Poem Into Prose
Whether you are attempting to translate an epic poem into a more accessible format or rewrite a more traditional poem in a way that is easier for you to understand, converting poetry to prose allows you to turn a poem into something more straightforward and readable. Because poetry is not bound by grammatical conventions, you cannot simply remove line breaks and expect to have a logical paragraph. You may need to add or subtract punctuation, separate run-on sentences, add subjects or verbs to fragments, or change word order for your prose conversion to make sense.
Break the poem into manageable sections, making sure that the sections are made up of complete sentences. Most poems are already divided into stanzas, which can work wonderfully as manageable sections. If a stanza ends mid-sentence, you will need to find where the sentence ends to create your first section. You may also need to divide epic poems or other large poems into three- or four-sentence chunks, as they rarely have stanzas.
Eliminate the line breaks from your first section, turning it into a paragraph.
Study each sentence in your paragraph to determine whether it is a run-on sentence. A run-on is two sentences that are only separated by a comma or that are not separated by any punctuation at all, such as the first two lines of "The Wild Swans at Coole" by Yeats: "The trees are in their autumn beauty, the woodland paths are dry."
Correct any run-on sentences by separating the two sentences with semicolons or periods, or by adding a conjunction such as "and," "but," "because," "so" or "when." For instance, you could replace the comma in "The Wild Swans at Coole" with a semicolon or period, or you could write "and" after the comma.
Check each sentence in your paragraph to make sure that it has a verb -- a word that conveys action -- and a subject, which is a noun that performs the verb. If not, the sentence is a fragment. For instance, in George Herbert's "The Elixir," one stanza begins, "Not rudely, as a beast, to run into an action." There is no subject saying who doesn't run rudely as a beast, making the sentence a fragment.
Study any fragments to determine what the subject and verb should be before fixing the fragments. Check the surrounding stanzas for context if you're not sure. In "The Elixir," Herbert asked God to help him be a better person in the previous stanza; therefore, it's logical that he's talking about himself in the sentence fragment. Rewrite the sentence to have both a subject and a verb.
Read over the paragraph to determine whether any sentences or ideas do not flow well in prose form. For instance, a sentence may be grammatically correct but extremely long, or it may seem to be written almost backward.
Rewrite any poorly flowing sentences so that they are grammatically correct. You may have to break them up into multiple sentences or add or subtract a few words to do this. Change as little as possible so you can preserve the meaning of the poem while still making it grammatically correct.
Repeat steps 2 through 8 for each paragraph in your rewritten poem.
A resident of the Baltimore area, Rachel Kolar has been writing since 2001. Her educational research was featured at the Maryland State Department of Education Professional Schools Development Conference in 2008. Kolar holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Kenyon College and a Master of Arts in teaching from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.