When a writer asked this online the other day, he received some horrible responses. Here's how I answered.
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First, I would suggest that you not be misled by the response from someone who claims that practicing only one specific form or type of writing will benefit that writing. That is complete nonsense, especially from someone who purports to know enough to teach other writers to improve their literary skills. It is an appalling response.
The accurate answer from someone not shooting from the lip is this: Absolutely, poetry can increase your writing skills. Not only poetry but also business letters, romance fiction, how-to books, biographies, diaries, and whatever else you can think of to write. All writing is intertwined as far as essential writing skillsets are concerned. While writing poetry won't increase your skills in another genre or format immediately, it will do so over time.
In case you hadn't noticed, good writing is far more complex than putting words down on paper to express thoughts. It involves creating vivid and sensory-stimulating imagery (as does poetry); beat and meter (poetry); alliteration (poetry); metaphoric references (poetry); rhyme (poetry); literary allusion (poetry), and more. In fact, I could continue forever, but I think you see my point. Some of the tools that the poet uses can also find their way into narrative and other prose forms to benefit the author's literary skills.
In fact, since we're on the subject, all creative endeavors will improve your writing skills. Do you paint? Sculpt? Play a musical instrument? Compose? Playwright? Screenwrite? Photograph? Dance? Act? If so, your writing will gradually and steadily succumb to the influences of those other artistic indulgences. And to your writing's betterment. All creative expression is at the same time both unique and universal. To say that one form of expression can't influence your writing positively is irresponsible at best and career-ending at worst.
Notice that none of this even begins to touch on the subject of how delving into the sciences can make you a better writer by increasing your writing skillsets. Have you ever heard of the "scientific method"? You remember. That's the empirical means of acquiring knowledge used since the 17th century. The method involves astute observation, questioning what is observed, and formulating various hypotheses through the use of induction based upon those observations.
Observation, questioning, and induction. Sounds a little like what you do when working up an outline for a book or a complex article or even a thesis, doesn't it? Or what you do when you're proofreading your nearly finished literary masterpiece? Exactly. And the more acquainted you are with the sciences, the more effective your literary prowess will become.
So, yes, poetry (among other things) can affect the quality of your writing. How or to what degree you allow that to happen, of course, sets you apart from every other writer on the face of the earth.
Remember, in the end, everything distills down to basics. It's all there for everyone to grab. My question to you is, will you make an effort to do so?
Carpe diem, my friend, carpe diem.
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.