Prose poetry

Prose poetry

:"This article refers to a poetic form. For the competitive speech event, see Prose & Poetry."


Prose poetry is usually considered a form of poetry written in prose that breaks some of the normal rules associated with prose discourse, for heightened imagery or emotional effect.


Arguments continue about whether prose poetry is actually a form of poetry or a form of prose, or a separate genre altogether. Most critics argue that prose poetry belongs in the genre of poetry because of its use of metaphorical language and attention to language.

Other critics argue that prose poetry falls into the genre of prose because prose poetry relies on prose's association with narrative and its reliance on readers' expectation of an objective presentation of truth in prose.

Yet others argue that the prose poem gains its subversiveness through its fusion of poetic and prosaic elements.



At the time of the prose poem's emergence, French poetry was dominated by the alexandrine, an extremely strict and demanding form that poets such as Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire rebelled against. Further proponents of the prose poem included other French poets such as Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé.

The prose poem continued to be written in France and found profound expression, in the mid-20th century, in the prose poems of Francis Ponge.At the end of the 19th century, British Decadent movement poets such as Oscar Wilde picked up the form because of its already subversive association. This actually hindered the dissemination of the form into English because many associated the Decadents with homosexuality, hence any form used by the Decadents was suspect. Notable Modernist poet T. S. Eliot wrote vehemently against prose poems, though he did try his hand at one or two. He also added to the debate about what defines the genre, saying in his introduction to Djuna Barnes' highly poeticized 1936 novel "Nightwood" that this work may not be classed as "poetic prose" as it did not have the rhythm or "musical pattern" of verse.

In contrast, a couple of other Modernist authors wrote prose poetry consistently, including Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson. In actuality, Anderson considered his work to be short fictions—in the current term, "flash fiction." The distinction between flash fiction and prose poetry is at times very thin, almost indiscernible. "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept" by Canadian author Elizabeth Smart, written in 1945, is a relatively isolated example of English-language poetic prose in the mid-20th century. Then, for a while, prose poems died out, at least in English—until the early 1960s and '70s, when American poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Russell Edson, Charles Simic, Robert Bly and James Wright experimented with the form. Edson, indeed, worked principally in this form, and helped give the prose poem its current reputation for surrealist wit. Similarly, Simic won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his 1989 collection, "The World Doesn't End".

At the same time, poets elsewhere were exploring the form in Spanish, Japanese and Russian. Octavio Paz worked in this form in Spanish in his [| "Aguila o Sol?" (Eagle or Sun?)] . Spanish poet Ángel Crespo (1926-95) did his most notable work in the genre. Giannina Braschi, postmodern Spanish-language poet, wrote a trilogy of prose poems, "El imperio de los suenos" (Empire of Dreams, 1988). Translator Dennis Keene presents the work of six Japanese prose poets in "The Modern Japanese Prose Poem: an Anthology of Six Poets". Similarly, Adrian Wanner and Caryl Emerson describe the form's growth in Russia in their critical work, "Russian Minimalism: from the Prose Poem to the Anti-story". The two best-known examples of this literary form in Russian are Gogol's "Dead Souls" and Venedikt Erofeev's "Moscow-Petushki". In Poland, Bolesław Prus (1847-1912), influenced by the French prose poets, had written a number of poetic micro-stories, including "Mold of the Earth" (1884), "" (1884) and "Shades" (1885).

The form has gained popularity since the late 1980s, and literary journals that previously refused to acknowledge prose poetry's unique contributions to both poetry and prose have now conceded its worth and currently display prose poems next to sonnets and short stories. Journals have even begun to specialize, publishing solely prose poems/flash fiction in their pages (see external links below). Some contemporary writers who write prose poems or flash fiction include Michael Benedikt, Robert Bly, Anne Carson, Kim Chinquee, Richard Garcia, Ray Gonzalez, Lyn Hejinian, Louis Jenkins, Campbell McGrath, Sheila Murphy, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, David Shumate, James Tate, and J. Marcus Weekley.

It used to be said that prose poetry was impossible in English because the English language was not so strictly governed by rules as was the French language. In the twentieth century, when English prose became increasingly ruled by the iron laws of America's Strunk and White, this may no longer have been the case.

Rapturous, rhythmic, image-laden prose from previous centuries, such as that found in Jeremy Taylor and Thomas de Quincey, strikes 21st-century readers as having something of a poetic quality. Using figurative language to provoke thought, it invites a reader into unusual perspectives to question what is traditionally thought of, as in Richard Garcia's "Chickenhead."

ee also

*Flash fiction
*Vignette (literature)
*"Double Room"
*"The English Mail-Coach"
*"Suspiria de Profundis"

External links

* [ Poetic Form: Prose Poem]
* [ Prose Poetry]
* [ Haibun Today -- prose + poetry hybrid]
* [ Ogdenian Prose Poetry]
* [ Is there really such a thing as "prose-poetry"?]
* [ zafusy: contemporary poetry journal]
* [ Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics]
* [ CUE: A Journal of Prose Poetry]
* [ Quick Fiction]
* [ Quarter After Eight]
* [ Wild Strawberries]
* [ Mad Hatters' Review]
* [ William Stafford and David Shumate describe prose poetry]

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