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

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I'm not convinced all elements of poetry can be abandoned (in any kind of writing). With Baudelaire, there are images still left, that's for sure, since his entire collection works with images in the city-- the "mire of the macadam"-- there, out popped some alliteration in that piece. He makes use of other poetic devices too. On the whole I'd consider most of his work in Paris Spleen as pretty non-poetic. But he's known as the father of prose poetry.

What makes a poem or a prose poem has been debated for a long while. There's also a debate going about what separates prose poetry from flash fiction. One publisher in particular, in his annual contest, says the author can choose what to call the entry and he'll slot them accordingly (into the two different classifications). Another publisher of prose poems decided to label a selection of some of his newly released collections as fiction to appeal to the crowds who don't like poetry. So people other than an author sometimes get into the labeling of certain types of work.

Further, many fine prose poems have been labeled poetry, flash fiction, even nonfiction (and have been included in various anthologies).

Baudelaire also had his reasons for calling his works prose poems. He was a talented poet so he knew the ways of poetry. But he was trying to do something different in Paris Spleen. His prose poems mostly failed with mainstream readers but were loved and admired by many in the literary crowd.

It's an interesting world, the world of prose poets.
 
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Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
On the lack of poetic language in a lot of prose poetry . . . I was looking through an essay on Michael Benedikt's work on prose poetry and the essay points out that Benedickt claims it's necessary for prose poetry to make use of everyday speech. The resulting use of many tones of voices and humor "subsumes ordinary ideas of poetic gravity or decorum. "

Benedickt did a lot of work concerning prose poetry and got it more accepted in the U.S. through his dedicated work. So maybe the prose we often see in prose poetry seems like a cop-out, it isn't really. It's often much more than "just prose passed of as poetry. Total cop-out." We might not like all of it and we'll no doubt prefer some prose poetry writers over others, but prose poetry does have its interesting strategies and goals.
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Pamelyn, I am not saying that all prose poetry is prose passed off as poetry. I love a good prose poem. But some “prose poetry” just isn’t poetic. I think there is a difference between flash fiction and prose poetry. Fiction tells a story. Poetry is not bound to story. In fact, the best poems IMO defy the lineal progression of story and tend to leap from image to image.
 
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Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I guess it all depends on what we prefer in prose poetry. Some good prose poetry isn't very poetic. For instance, some of Baudelaire's prose poetry isn't particularly poetic at all and he's said to be the father of prose poetry. He had something else in mind with his Paris Spleen but he chose to call his work poetic prose anyway. Some prose poetry is poetic and some isn't and both types can be outstanding work.

There's not always a difference in flash fiction and prose poetry either. The same piece will often turn up in anthologies of prose poetry and of flash fiction. Rather than focusing on "story" a lot of flash fiction focuses on character or mood or tone or situation-- just as a lot of prose poetry does. (And just as poetry sometimes does.) However, online flash fiction does often insist on having story as the main ingredient-- so many online editors and writers want only the traditionally told story. But flash fiction isn't limited to writing in the traditional way.

Have you had the pleasure of reading Lydia Davis' work? She's a flash fiction writer's writer. She's won all sorts of awards for her work (Guggenheim Fellowship, Man Booker International Prize in 2013, and many more). Her work sometimes has story elements and sometimes it has no story at all. She's one of my favorites and I've so far purchased three of her collections. Her work often fits well in both prose poetry and flash fiction anthologies or categories. Hers is definitely crossover work. (Btw, her short-short story, "Men," was first published in 32 Poems then included in the Best American Poetry anthology in 2008.)

W.S. Merwin is another gifted writer of prose poetry that can often be classified as flash fiction. His The Book of Fables is terrific reading. (He is the winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. )
 
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