About one month after Les Fleurs du mal went on sale in July 1857, a report was drawn up by the Sûreté Publique (Public Safety) section of the Ministry of the Interior stating that the collection was in contempt of the laws that safeguard religion and morality. Thirteen poems were singled out and put on trial. In contrast with the last time he went to court, when he acquiesced to the imposition of a conseil judiciaire, Baudelaire fought this battle to the last. The proceeding betrays some of the misunderstandings that have infected views of his poetry ever since.
Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la Nuit (Gaspard of the Night, 1842), a relatively little-known work about gothic scenes in Paris; fell into financial disaster shortly thereafter; An Alexandrine is a verse of iambic hexameter — i.e., a verse of six feet, each of which has the stress on the second beat. Verse: single line; An iamb (the adjective is "iambic") is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. The Spleen of Paris, Le Spleen de Paris, Petits Poemes en prose
Ekphrastic, visual, imagistic
In 1978 the pulitzer prize in poetry committee had two our of three vote to award to Mark strand, the monument, short prose on deth, the thrd committee member ouis simpson opposed it saying the pieces were prose, not lieated and the award was overturned. Simic, the world doesn’t end, prose 12 years after strand
On the moment when she realized that she didn't need to write long to write well” I can date that pretty precisely to the fall of 1973. So I was 26 years old and I had just been reading the short stories or the prose poems of Russell Edson. And for some reason, I was sparked by those. I thought, "These are fun to read, and provocative and interesting, and I'd like to try this." So I set myself the challenge of writing two very short stories every day just to see what would happen.
Hae someone read prose poem essay on the prose poem
The ghazal is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line of the poem must be of the same length, though meter is not imposed in English. The first couplet introduces a scheme, made up of a rhyme followed by a refrain. The last couplet includes the poet’s name
“[W]hen I’m in a place that’s really strange to me—when I don’t know the language or the customs or the geography that surrounds me—I feel more self-contained, more a sense that my home is within myself. At the same time, there’s more of a sense of just being part of the sea of humanity, a way that those barriers—language, culture, borders—seem to dissolve.” Ilya Kiminsky, a russian emigrated poetry
Prose Poetry Presentation
Attack of the
Prose poetry: a bit of history/controversy &
• ...[It is a] controversially hybrid and (aesthetically and even politically)
revolutionary genre... With its oxymoronic title and its form based on
contradiction, the p. p. is suitable to an extraordinary range of perception and
expression, from the ambivalent (in content as in form) to the mimetic and the
narrative (or even anecdotal). ... Its principal characteristics are those that would
insure unity even in brevity and poetic quality even without the line breaks of
free verse: high patterning, rhythmic and figural repetition, sustained intensity,
• In the p. p. a field of vision is represented, sometimes mimetically and often
pictorially, only to be, on occasion, put off abruptly; emotion is contracted under
the force of ellipsis, so deepened and made dense; the rhapsodic mode and
what Baudelaire called the “prickings of the unconscious” are, in the supreme
examples, combined with the metaphoric and the ontological: the p. p. aims at
knowing or finding out something not accessible under the more restrictive
conventions of verse (Beaujour). (p. 977)
• —From The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
• Born out of poetic rebellion in 19th century France
through progenitors such as Charles Baudelaire and
• The “rebellion factor” comes into play when you consider
the stringency of French law regarding published works
at the time
• Baudelaire was already pushing boundaries in terms of
content and poetic vision. Then in the 1860s (ish), he
began pushing the boundaries of form by publishing
Baudelaire on Prose
• “Who among us has not, in his days of ambition,
dreamed the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without
rhythm or rhyme, supple and agile enough to adapt to
the lyrical movements of the soul, to the undulations of
daydreams, to the leaps of consciousness?”
• He wanted to create a new language, one that was not
ordered, was more modern and that broke with tradition.
In addition to restraints on content, French poetry at the
time was strictly metered.
• Wildly considered a great influence on some modern
poets and certainly the progenitor of prose poetry
Haters gonna hate
Prose Poetry rejected many times since its origins by poets and poetry establishments alike.
T.S. Eliot was not a fun and wrote an essay, “Reflections on Vers Libre” in which he stated:
“Vers libre has not even the excuse of a polemic; it is a battle-cry of freedom, and there is no freedom in art.
And as the so called vers libre which is good is anything but “free”, it can better be defended under some
other label. Particular types of vers libre may be supported on the choice of content, or on the method of
handling the content. I am aware that many writers of vers libre have introduced such innovations, and that
the novelty of their choice and manipulation of material is confused—if not in their own minds, in the minds of
many of their readers—with the novelty of the form. But I am not here concerned with imagism, which is a
theory about the use of material; I am only concerned with the theory of the verse-form in which imagism is
cast. If vers libre is a genuine verse-form it will have a positive definition. And I can define it only in negatives:
(1) absence of pattern, (2) absence of rhyme, (3) absence of metre.
The third of these qualities is easily disposed of. What sort of a line that would be which would not scan at all I
(New Statesman, March, 1917)
As for the prose poets
• Even some of them find it hard to assess.
• “I hesitate to use the word form when speaking of prose
poems, because for all the interesting poets who have
written them, the prose poem has yet to yield up a
method.” (“The Prose Poem in America, written by prose
poet Russell Edson, 1976)
• “The prose poem has the unusual distinction of being
regarded with suspicion not only by the usual haters of
poetry, but also by many poets themselves.” —Charles
• The prose poem perseveres and is, perhaps, more popular than ever, while still
elusive. In Beltway Quarterly’s 2013 issue on Prose Poetry, Abigail Becker
defines it thusly:
“The signature element of prose poetry is that it has no line breaks like traditional
poetry. A prose poem looks like a block of text on the page, running from left to right
margins without care where the lines break. It’s a chunk of prose that reads like
poetry. In a prose poem, the unit of rhythm is the sentence rather than the
enjambed line, but those sentences must be imbued with the lyricism and sonic play
of a lined poem. A prose poem is not a lined poem smooshed together with the line
breaks removed. It’s usually obvious when a poet has tried this approach, as the
tension still resides in the old lines and you can hear them begging for enjambment.
A prose poem finds its tension in sentences—its cadence starts and stops with
punctuation, with the long sentence and then the short, with repetition, alliteration
and internal rhyme built in. Prose poetry offers the best of verse and prose, spinning
off down poetic byways but offering the assumed approachability of a paragraph,
while all the time rattling the cages of both genres.”
• No line breaks
• Chunk of block of text
• The sentence is the measure of the piece (the prose
• But the sentences still rely on alliteration, internal
rhythm, repetition (poetry)
• Beltway Review argues that its form makes it particularly
open to epistolary and ekphrastic subjects
• Has only grown more popular since the 20th century, as
formalism became less widespread
Lyric Essay & Prose
• Shared traits: genre hybrids, controversial, difficult to
• Also difficult to distinguish: what’s the difference between
flash nonfiction (or fiction for that matter) and a prose
poem? Ask 100 writers and hear 100 answers.
• Generally, one could argue that when language
overtakes narrative devices (plot, linearity, character),
then it becomes a prose poem, but that’s pretty murky.
• Another way of thinking about both lyric essay and prose
poetry is each hybrid’s focus on containment and content
• Flash is about compression of content into a contained
and speedy piece of writing
• The hermit crab essay is about appropriation of existing
form to contain unlikely content
• The prose poem focuses on containing poetic sensibility
within the prose form, i.e. sentences, paragraphs versus
• What do we learn about writing from thinking about
fluidity versus containment in this way?
“Foucault and Pencil”
• First, let’s listen to Davis read this piece while reading
along. As you do, think about the inherent characteristics
of poetry and prose, and how this piece makes use of
• Obviously, this piece by Lydia Davis appears in an
anthology of essays, so why include it in our discussion
of prose poetry? Is it flash? Is it prose poetry? What
characteristics does it have?
• What’s happening on the surface of the piece; what’s it
“about” underneath the surface action?
“Foucault and Pencil”
• Actually is the longest “story” in her collection of short stories “Almost
No Memory.” In an interview with NPR, Davis says of the piece:
“The plot is that a woman — and I think of her as a sort of sad academic —
she's been given a much-coveted grant and thinks, sort of unrealistically,
that now she will be able to stop teaching. Teaching is very difficult for her.
And of course that's modeled on my own experience. I find teaching — I
like it, but I find just walking into the classroom and facing the students
... A lot of that was exactly echoing my own feelings riding up on the bus —
I insisted on taking the bus rather than my car, I don't know why — to the
university and wishing there'd be a minor accident. You know, a flat tire or
something. Nobody would get hurt, but somehow it would prevent the class
happening. ... The stage fright was enormously difficult. So the five or 10
minutes before the class were agony.”
“Sleep” by Brian Lennon
• An excerpt from “City: An Essay,” which is divided into
six titled sections (and has been described in reviews as
six sections of prose poems)
• From the book’s description, “Though classified as
creative nonfiction, City is an open genre piece that
reads with the rhythm and beauty of poetry.”
• What is this excerpt concerned with? What associations
does it make?
• What impact do the chunks of text and white space have
on the content?
• What observations do you have about the poetics of the
• In The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry,
editors Gary McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek describe
the prose poetry as the intersection between fiction,
nonfiction and poetry and discuss its popularity with
feminist poets and experimentalist writers
• The genesis of the book came in part because the
editors realized there weren’t enough craft essays on
prose poetry to even make an anthology
• So if you’re looking for lots of craft essays and prose
poems, this would be a good choice.
• What do you observe about the language in this prose
• What is his argument for prose poetry
• What are the metaphors
• What is the stance, POV of this piece?
• What else?
“Ticking the Box”
• What has Greenberg’s experience been with strict
received forms? What is her argument in favor or hybrid
• Observations about “Ord” and “On the Use of a View: An
• What is “Ord” about? Observations about its language?
• What makes “On the Use of View” an essay, do you
• In “It’s not in Cleveland, But I’m Getting Closer,” Tung-
Hui Hu writes: “…a good prose poem makes its own
envelope.” And, indeed, prose poetry in a variety of
places is referred to a bowl, a block, a box of poetry
• Hu writes that a prose poem “must convince you it’s a
poem” and compares the fragmentation of a postcard to
that of a prose poem
Lisboa, 1755; Five Dollars
• In “Lisboa, 1755,” what is happening?
• What elements of writing does the piece contain?
• What observations do you have about the word choice
and the sentences?
• What’s different in “Five Dollars”? How would you
describe the piece; what associations does it make?
• In fact, in “A Brief Guide to the Prose Poem,” Danielle
Mitchell describes “the postcard” as a category of prose
• Fragmented in nature
• Has concern with a sense of place (the form dictating or
informing the content)
• Has the inherent sense of being addressed outward to
someone else (perhaps someone particular)
• An example Mitchell cites is
• “Postcard to I. Kaminsky from a Dream at the Edge of
the Sea” by Cecilia Woloch.
Guess what we’re doing
• Options: Use the postcard to write a postcard prose
poem (draft) that encompasses focus on a sense of
place and POV
• Use the postcard to write a prose poem with ekphrastic
leanings, using the image on the postcard for inspiration
• You can further develop these for your small group
discussions next week, or write “something new” that
adheres to the prose poetry parameters we’ve
Small Workshop Groups
Daniela, Amaya, Ana Stina,
Group 4: Melinda, Marjorie,
Cris, Jen H, Kim
• You’ll be discussing each
piece’s characteristics of
poetry and prose. You’ll also
offer general observations
Liz, Andrew, Felicia, Kim
Franco, Marisa, Charli, Nic
Bring copies for each of
your group and one for me.
The Video Essay
• As someone of you may recall from Tell It Slant, multi-
media pieces also are cited as a form of lyric essay, as
these, too, create hybrids between forms.
• The video essay is one example, and has been growing
• In Blackbird, John Bresland deems it the video essay,
trying to distinguish it from film (Lopate describes it as a
centaur, and seems suspicious).
• Marilyn Freeman in TriQuarterly writes of the way video
essays, like lyric essays, blend genre and defy the
expectations of genre.
The Video Essay
“Like the literary side of its family, the video essay invites
nonlinear, associative thought and digression. It doesn’t try to
argue, persuade or solve problems (though it might accomplish
such things). But something else distinguishes the video essay’s
poetic aspect; it resides in the liminal space between sound and
image, and inhabits that space differently than typical movies.
Conventional films are made to appear seamless and to move
audiences forward along a dramatic line. By contrast, the video
essay aims to move audiences deeper. It disrupts the smooth
impenetrable surface of standard cinema with unexpected
couplings of sound and image. Those couplings open up the
video essay to interpretation and invite in audiences to co-create
Let’s Watch Some
• As we do, ask these questions: In what way is the video
essay transgressive? What expectations does it disrupt?
What associations are made that might not be otherwise
as the result of image and sound with words in a non-
• “That Kind of Daughter” by Kristen Radtke and
“Wolfvision” by Robyn Schiff and Nick Twemlow