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Prose Poetry -- Are You a Fan Too? (1 Viewer)

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Are any of you lovers of good prose poetry? Are you pretty familiar with the genre or is it something relatively new to you? Do you write it? Can you name some of your favorite writers of prose poetry? Or tell some of your favorite pieces?

I love good prose poetry. I've studied it for years now and have many really good anthologies filled with outstanding prose poetry. I also write it. A couple of my favorite prose poetry writers are W.S. Merwin and Lydia Davis. These writers always have something interesting to say.

Here are three super brief prose poems I like a lot.

From Mythology
by Zbigniew Herbert

First there was a god of night and tempest, a black idol without eyes, before whom they leaped, naked and smeared with blood. Later on, in the times of the republic, there were many gods with wives, children, creaking beds, and harmlessly exploding thunderbolts. At the end only superstitious neurotics carried in their pockets little statues of salt, representing the god of irony. There was no greater god at that time.
Then came the barbarians. They too valued highly the little god of irony.
They would crush it under their heels and add it to their dishes.

http://www.best-poems.net/poem/from-mythology-by-zbigniew-herbert.html

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A VILLAGE
by Michael Martone

"Who dreamed us here?" the inhabitants of this village ask in their dreams. They try, upon waking, to renegotiate the covenants inherited from their ancestors--the dazzling hue of their houses, the shifting distribution of the neighborhoods. Their undreamed dreams accumulate, cloud the black, black night with sparks of color. They forget to ask. They ask. They forget they've asked. They ask. Who smudged out the road that was never there? Who erased the sense of a sense of direction? They dream: "Who dreamed us here?"
"Did you?" they ask. "Did you?"

http://webdelsol.com/tpp/t-su97mm.htm
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FEAR
by Lydia Davis

Nearly every morning, a certain woman in our community comes running out of her house with her face white and her overcoat flapping wildly. She cries out, "Emergency, emergency," and one of us runs to her and holds her until her fears are calmed. We know she is making it up; nothing has really happened to her. But we understand, because there is hardly one of us who has not been moved at some time to do just what she has done, and every time, it has taken all our strength, and even the strength of our friends and families too, to quiet us.

See this piece and four other Davis prose poems here: http://www.conjunctions.com/print/article/lydia-davis-c24
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I would love to know your thoughts on prose poetry. I would also enjoy learning of some of your favorite writers of prose poetry and reading some of your favorite pieces.
 

Darren White

co-owner and admin
Staff member
Co-Owner
I am not one to list many writers of prose poetry. I think I only have one favourite: Billy-Ray Belcourt, who writes prose poetry and poetry both, in one book This Wound is a World
My own book (I'm trying to find a publisher now) is a combination of prose poetry and poetry too. Very difficult to find a publisher who accepts chapbook-length work.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Best of luck getting your chapbook published, Darren. I've never heard of Billy-Ray Belcourt so based on your appreciation of his work I'll add him to my list of work to explore.

A collection you might like is Written in Water, the prose poems of Louis Cernuda. This a combination of his two collections, Ocnos and Variaciones sabre tema mexicano (Variations on a Mexican Theme). The collection explores various periods in Cernuda's life and the lyrical quality of his work is complex and beautiful.

There are so many talented prose poets.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
While prose poetry is becoming more and more accepted, it still faces a lot of dismissal. Why do you think that is? Do you like prose poetry? Or do you dislike it? What is it about prose poetry that makes you uneasy or uncomfortable? Why do you think it might be less respectable than poetry or short fiction?
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
It surprised me that I liked a lot of Bukowski's work. I didn't expect to but I did. (He reminds me of some of my interesting relatives who kept us all busy watching what they were up to.:-D)
 

escorial

WF Veterans
Buks work is gritty and dark but somehow he manages to bring a truth and emotion to the bleakest of poetry prose...
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
While prose poetry is becoming more and more accepted, it still faces a lot of dismissal. Why do you think that is? Do you like prose poetry? Or do you dislike it? What is it about prose poetry that makes you uneasy or uncomfortable? Why do you think it might be less respectable than poetry or short fiction?

I think prose poetry is okay providing the writer uses poetic language. I read some 'prose' poetry and it is bland and reads like prose.

I googled:
Prose poetry is a type of writing that combines lyrical and metric elements of traditional poetry with idiomatic elements of prose, such as standard punctuation and the lack of line breaks.Nov 8, 2020

So the only difference is: the lyrical and metric elements which probably makes it more difficult to write than prose?
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I think prose poetry is okay providing the writer uses poetic language. I read some 'prose' poetry and it is bland and reads like prose.

I've read seemingly bland pieces too. By Baudelaire in particular (the alleged father of prose poetry!) I've been studying his work and it turns out some of his pieces were far more prose-y than poetry on purpose. In his prose poems, a name he borrowed from another group of poets to help what he was writing seem more legitimate, it turns out he was trying to show the "reality" of the changing sights, the ever-changing fragmented sights in the city. I've always wondered why Baudelaire, a talented poet, often sounded so prose-y in his alleged prose poetry. I thought it must have something to do with the translation or something. But it's for a whole different reason. (This has been interesting to look into.) I also agree that it's more difficult to write than prose.
 
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escorial

WF Veterans
I've always found a good crossover in writing is the author who specializes in one topic and use this intentionally or sub-conciously to great effect..Albert Camus springs to mind..
 

Kehlida

Senior Member
Personally, I enjoy it and have found myself writing prose poems before. I used to refer to them as thought pieces when I was much younger and before I realized it was an acceptable form when done properly. I find modern spoken word reads more like prose but uses the format of a poem as well.
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I think prose poetry developed from frustrated poets writing free verse and getting tired of critics or the public saying that what they wrote was just prose broken into lines. So someone had the smart idea to say "okay, forget lines, I can write a poem that looks just like prose but it isn't prose it's poetry." The only difference is that the poem isn't broken into lines and it's written in full sentences but it has all the other poetic devices except end-rhyme because there are no line-ending.. That's what prose poetry is, poetry written in the style of figurative prose. There is a difference between that, and prose written in the line form of poetry. That isn't poetry and I think a lot of people get confused thinking that it is poetry. It isn't. The form, or line, is not what makes the difference between poetry and prose. Line is just one poetic device among many, many techniques such as metaphor, internal rhyme, alliteration, anaphora, rhythm, cadence, hyperbole to name just a few.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I've been hard at work studying a particular kind of writing and this kind of writing includes what some label prose poetry. Charles Baudelaire is credited with being the inventor of prose poetry. However, there is nothing lyrical about his short-short pieces in his famous Paris Spleen. According to one scholar he made use of an already established literary term to get his non-lyrical prose pieces about the beauty and the horror of the city considered legitimate, established writing in his Paris Spleen collection. He had to find a way to get readers to take a closer look so he made us of an established term that wasn't quite so alienating. (Baudelaire, of course, was a first-rate poet but he wanted his new form for other reasons.)

A few years ago a renowned publisher of prose poetry released several collections but for those collections decided to go with the term flash fiction so readers who dislike poetry might take a look at these new "fictions." I guess we do what we can to get read.:-D

Lots of today's prose poems read like prose and lots of it also takes on a lyrical bent. It's an experimental genre and I personally can't get enough of it, whether it leans more toward prose or more toward poetry.
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
I'm not a fan. I was the kid that never wanted any of their foods touching. Prose poetry is like hotdish (casserole), cream of whatever, a variety of ingredients assembled according to the whims of the author, and baked until golden brown on top. Most people love hotdish, me, I could not stand the stuff because I could not identify what was in it.

Being an extreme overthinker, I spend too much time trying to decide what species and elements define the piece instead enjoying the work. Reading for frustration is not something anyone enjoys, so I can appreciate it as a species that brings joy to many, but I will continue to savour the safety and quantifiable elements of blue plate poetry.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
It's not meant for everyone, that's for sure. You make a good case for avoiding it.:-D

Over the years I've collected most of the major anthologies and there's some terrific work included, along with pieces I'm not a bit fond of. To me, prose poetry is like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead-- when it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad, it's horrid. I guess that's so with any genre.

Some of my favorite writers who have written prose poetry are W. S. Merwin, Russell Edson, Julio Cortazar, Italo Calvino, and Zbgniew Herbert. I'd bet even a "blue plate" poet could enjoy work by these outstanding writers. But maybe it's best to stick with non-touching foods.:-D
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I love the little discoveries each day brings. I found some prose poetry dating back to before 1761. (I'd start a blog about prose poetry but I don't know what blogs are for, exactly, and likely wouldn't get to keep it up. Plus, it would feel too much like talking to myself. I already do enough of that.:-D) I imagine one day they'll find me-- buried in my notes about prose poetry and flash fiction (and poetry). I love exploring it all. Even more than writing it.
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I’ve read good and bad. One of my favourite poets writing in prose poetry is Lorna Crozier. Her book “God of Shadows” is all prose poems about the gods of every day things. There is no doubt that these are poems, and great ones at that. On the other hand, I have read what is called prose poetry and there is nothing poetic in it at all. It’s just prose passed of as poetry. Total cop-out.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I wouldn't say non-poetic prose poetry is a "Total cop-out" when prose poems aren't lyrical. That's as Baudelaire himself set them up. Much of his work in Paris Spleen is non-lyrical. I think most of us miss what he was doing and why he was doing it and too often want to pin down prose poetry to what we think it should be.

I'm a Lorna Crozier fan too. She's one of my favorites. I got her to share some of her writing at OPEN: Journal of Arts and Letters. I got in touch with her and made the arrangements for her work to be featured in O:JA&L and I'm quite proud of what her work offered our staff and readers.
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Pamelyn, I’m aware that not all poetry has to be lyrical. But there must be some poetic device employed more than just the form or the author declaring that it’s a poem, metaphor being the last element of poetry if all other devices have been abandoned.
 
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