At AWP, I was thanking the editor of Sentence for sending me a particularly kind and thoughtful rejection letter. He encouraged me to send again, and I said I hadn't been writing much in prose lately.

It was one of those moments where I seized on words I spoke the moment they came out of my mouth. Why aren't I writing in prose? I asked myself immediately after. What do I have against prose these days?

I get to points in my writing where I feel like I "forget" how to do things. Like, for a while, I was very comfortable writing prose poems, and then one day I realized I'd forgotten what made a prose poem a prose poem. So I walked away from them. I've felt this way about poetry with line breaks, too, or poems written in an autobiographical voice, or whathaveyou. Whatever I seem to be doing the most of, I suffer from an arbitrary and exhaustive form of poetic amnesia. What's my age again?

Anyway, since I don't have a real project to work on right now—something grabbing me by the ears making me write—I've decided to go back to the prose poem for a little while and write some little experiment poems.

My assignment is to pick a word—typically a word sitting somewhere on my desk, but it doesn't have to be—and I write a fucked-up dictionary definition for it. The first word I did was "Prisoners," then "Fulfillment," and yesterday I wrote "Dietrichesque," although I don't know why.

I also know that I have to get my head out of my last manuscript, out of the modes I got cozy writing in. And getting out of those modes are going to help me continue to revise those pieces moving forward...but for now, I need some new candy.


  1. Oooh, I love "Sometimes she was a man. Sometimes she was a thigh." I've never written prose poetry--line-breaks are just so appealing to me--but realize it's about time I tried, if only to shake myself (poetry) up a bit. Admire yout dedication to not resting on the forms and voices you've already mastered.

    But "the director"? The "director"??? Forohara's sake, man, that's Welles! Never just "the director." (Okay, I have a Welles thing. The one piece of memorabilia I own is a walking stick of his). I didn't know he'd gauzed her face, but I do know she volunteered to come down and be part of the film on a lark because they were pals. I believe they shot all her scenes in a day.

    Another Touch of Evil story: Welles had to leave the set in a hurry to go to a party, and didn't take off the extra poundage of his Hank Quinlan costume. Everyone at the party kept telling him how great he looked...that's when he knew that, uh, he didn't look so good anymore.


  2. Have you ever used the Devil's Dictionary?

    I read it everyday http://sedition.com/ddx/

    motivational speaker
    business term referring to anyone in control of the business end of a firearm.

    Thought you might find it useful.

  3. Favorite bit: "Economists say her hips caused the Deutschmark to collapse"

  4. Em, *laugh* yes, I wondered why I didn't name Welles in this poem, but ultimately I decided it would clunk up the poem—after all, dear old Fritz gets a nod, but merely for his cleavage—and I love Welles and his films are revolutionary.

    Thanks for sharing your Orson stories. When Vincent D'onofrio plays Orson Welles, it fills me with a little dirty whisper.

    Confidentially: Charlton Heston plays a Mexican!

    Jen, Thx for the feedback; David, thx for the link. :)

  5. Charlie, you're absolutely right--it would've clunked. I was being cheeky. On the other hand, if you do decide to publish, you might want to change director to, I dunno, makeup artist or dresser--Welles is so big (no pun intended) that "the director" kind of sticks out as not reading "Welles."

    There is very little I'd rather hear than Dietrich singing "Falling in Love Again." Let's dance to that someday. Okay, I'm going to try a Garbo prose poem--she's my other obsession. If I ever have kids they'll probably have to stagger under the weight of being named Orson and Greta. (My cats are already the victims of pop culture love: One's General Tso, the other AproblemlikeMaria.)

  6. Charles: this is inspired and inspiring. Keep it coming!

  7. I love Lang but she didn't work with him till late. she was the "discovery" of von Sternberg. he arr'd in Hollywood 2 months before her but was the reason she was invitd.

  8. Ah! Alex, thanks for the correction. :)