So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk!
On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish. Each group of writers adapted the form and developed their own rules and restrictions, ultimately expanding the definitions of the prose poem.
Among contemporary American writers, the form is widely popular and can be found in work by poets from a diverse range of movements and styles, including James Wright , Russell Edson , and Charles Simic. On the map it is precise and rectilinear as a chessboard, though driving past you would hardly notice it, this boundary line or ragged margin, a shallow swale that cups a simple trickle of water, less rill than rivulet, more gully than dell, a tangled ditch grown up throughout with a fearsome assortment of wildflowers and bracken. There is no fence, though here and there a weathered post asserts a former claim, strands of fallen wire taken by the dust.
To the left a cornfield carries into the distance, dips and rises to the blue sky, a rolling plain of green and healthy plants aligned in close order, row upon row upon row. Baudelaire used prose poems to rebel against the straitjacket of classical French versification.
So long as there is a straining toward style, there is versification. Materials for Teachers Materials for Teachers Home. Poems for Kids.
A prose composition that, while not broken into verse lines, demonstrates other traits such as symbols, metaphors, and other figures of speech common to poetry . Prose poetry is poetry written in prose form instead of verse form, while preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis, and emotional effects.
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Prose Poem: Poetic Form. A fine example of the form is Baudelaire's "Be Drunk," which concludes: And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking.
How do we approach a poetry that abandons syntactic logic in this way? In that sense, I do see Stein as being continuous with Rimbaud and his Illuminations. And Alice B. Toklas did later publish a recipe for hash brownies. But certainly, she, like Rimbaud, had an idea of trying to unhook her rational mind when it came to writing these poems, and letting it follow its own intuitive course. Support Five Books.
Five Books interviews are expensive to produce. If you're enjoying this interview, please support us by donating a small amount. Tender Buttons in particular was the book that made her notorious. It was a small press publication, but it got picked up by the American newspapers, who began to quote it, parody it, and generally mock it as nonsense. She knows that there is something about her writing that fascinates people, and it fascinates them partially because it irritates them.
It irritates the rational part of the mind which expects to be able to explain things. But, in a way, they were more interesting when they were irritating. With Tender Buttons , somehow Stein has managed to write a book that has become a classic, and yet still has that quality of niggling at you. I enjoy it—I love reading some of it out loud; its rhythms are amazing.
It has this effect on you that nobody has ever quite managed to put into words. That inexplicability is part of its greatness. Stein was taught by William James. Can we consider Tender Buttons alongside Wittgenstein and the philosophy of language more generally? Should we read this as an erotic or even lesbian text? Stein scholarship has made a good case for taking a reading in that direction: the private erotic language that she had with Alice B.
Her poetry has the same passionately enigmatic yet emphatic quality. It teases and it pleases. For example, if you set one of the Tender Buttons alongside a typical recipe book of the period, you would immediately see its resemblance to, say, a description of how you would produce a jam roly-poly. At the time Ponge is writing and publishing poems in the s, Hitler is beginning his rise in Germany, as does Stalin in Russia. As I was reading this one, I was wondered: how do historical pressures affect or catalyze or under-write the emergence of the prose poem form?
There is certainly a shadow history to do with the rise of prose in general here. And these are places which are increasingly dominated by prose as the way in which an increasingly literate population consumes information and entertainment, in cheap books and newspapers. Get the weekly Five Books newsletter. For a poet to inhabit this medium, as Ponge does, and bring it to bear on the most apparently modest of objects—to make tentative propositions in prose—is to in some way try to recover the life of prose, because so much prose is effectively dead or deadening.
He was a union representative who went on strike and later joined the Communist Party—and then during the war, the Resistance. This is not to say that everything after him is a disappointment, but he somehow discovers an essence of the poetic in prose which comes from the way in which he proceeds by very simply trying to define the thing in front of him. It makes you realize that there are just so many ways a poem can be, when the unit of organization is the sentence or the paragraph.
His method is ostensibly scientific: he takes prose as a supposedly objective medium. From childhood, he was fascinated by reading the dictionary. And as soon as he starts to describe it objectively, the subjective enters. For example. What is rain? To really attend to how it splashes differently in different places—and how prose might be a way of catching every single perception.
This, of course, works exactly against that tendency to close down and define. You mentioned just now that prose poems can be funny.
It reminds me of a remark by Alan Ziegler, who edited your fourth choice, the anthology Short , in which he points out the similitude between the short prose form and the joke. Short is a mammoth anthology—tell us about why you picked it. I also admire him because when confronted with this question—where does the prose poem begin, and how do you define it? He leaves the field more open than my book, and that I find very valuable, because it means that he brings in things that are evidently part of the bigger history here—for example, philosophers using short prose as well as fiction writers.
What do you think of this genealogy, which begins in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries but concentrates the bulk of its material in the last years or so? Again, I admire its faithfulness to the facts—it acknowledges that the prose poem is a modern form with a long tail.
Some of the most astonishing achievements in the form are extended pieces of writing. As an anthologist, sometimes you might be better leaving something out rather than misrepresenting it by an excerpt. But yes, I do think that although a lot of prose poems are short, which makes it tempting to take that as one of the definitions of the form, this would mean, for example, that you would only represent Stein by her shorter Tender Buttons. I was really interested in the elasticity and flexibility Ziegler talks about with regard to genre.
I read somewhere that Tender Buttons is meant to be read as a series of still lives. It reminds me of a remark by Alan Ziegler, who edited your fourth choice, the anthology Short , in which he points out the similitude between the short prose form and the joke. Andrei Codrescu on Fantastical Tales Books. The pronoun barely holding the person together. I enjoy it—I love reading some of it out loud; its rhythms are amazing. Not a single piece here is unworthy of notice and the excitement is that, alongside indispensable familiars — Turgenev, Oscar Wilde, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Czeslaw Milosz — there are many unusual suspects.
There is often something marginal or misfitting about a lot of the prose poetry that I find most interesting. How is the history of the lyric entwined with that of the prose poem? Like a lot of definitions, that refers you to the definition of something else.
These little two-word phrases that challenge you to rethink your definition of both parts. Then what is comes apart the closer you are to it. The pronoun barely holding the person together. Tried rhyme, tried truth, tried epistolary untruth, tried and tried. I think shape-shifting is right for Citizen. Its technical subtlety and overall arrangement has been neglected, because it has been classified as a kind of documentary work.
The focus has been on its vignettes of everyday micro-aggressions, not its more extended argument. So much time has been spent excavating the lyric essay or the documentary essay that the qualities of these works as poetry are lost.
The plain documentary prose—which has come to characterize it—is only part of it. There are passages of verse, too.