Of all writing, the discipline in poetry is the most demanding. You have to learn to distill what you mean into the most economic and at the same time the most elegant and accurate language. In poetry you have to see language as both music and content. A poet must be the master of simile, metaphor, and form, and of the precise use of vernacular and grammar, implication and innuendo. The poet has to be able to create symbols that are muted and yet undeniable. The poet, above all other writers, must know how to edit out the extraneous, received, repetitious, and misleading. A poet will ask herself, "Why did I use that word, and how will that usage affect meaning later in the poem when the same word is used again? A similar word?"
The poet seeks perfection in every line and sentence; she demands flawlessness of form.
If the fiction writer demands half of what the poet asks of herself, then that writer will render an exquisitely written novel.
When I began writing, I aspired to write poetry. I wrote reams of poems which ranged from mediocre to downright bad, and I didn't find my feet as a writer until I switched to fiction. But I've never felt that my attempts at poetry were a waste of time. Like Mosley, I'm convinced that writing poetry sharpened my fiction-writing skills.
Are there other fiction-writers out there who feel that reading or writing poetry has served their fiction in this way? And what about the link between reading poetry and reading fiction? Given the attentiveness to language that it requires, might regularly reading poetry also make one a more discerning and appreciative reader of fiction?