The Prose Poem

My prose poem assignments are going better than I expected! During the day a word comes to me, and I think, That should be my next definition. Today's word (term, really, because I don't want to be exclusive) was "rough trade."

So far, I've written poems about the following words: Offered, Prisoners, Pupil, Crisis, Dietrichesque, and Fulfillment.

My tone is shifting. These poems are much more conversational and directly address the reader (or seem to). They also seem to be more political in tone and are especially concerned with issues of class.

In my last ms., I know I was really concerned with finding an "organic stanza," getting out of writing in the mode of stanzas of equal length (which, right now, irritates me). I was concerned with reducing language, finding a true economy of language in the lines. It makes sense to me, then, that I've done a 180 and looked for a stanza-less form, so to speak.

I can only change so many things at once. I can only explore, in detail, even fewer.

And today I drew the important conclusion that there can never be such thing as "non-narrative."


  1. Charles: "Rough Trade" -- what a great title idea; takes me a thousand places. It is so great to know you are on a roll.

  2. And today I drew the important conclusion that there can never be such thing as "non-narrative."

    I've definitely read a few things that have seemed like 'non-narratives', but I'm resistant to them. Ultimately though I think 'narrative' ends up being any sense of temporality in the poem. To get rid of that I think is impossible.

  3. A.D.—yes, and I think the trap is that defining something as "non-narrative" simply continues to confine it to a type of narrative. And narrative isn't "story," it's the idea of sequence. Every poem has sequence—of words, of phrases, of lines, of pages, etc.

    Peter & Woody: Thanks for the encouragement. ;)

  4. Charles --

    If narrative is the 'idea of sequence' -- which I think you're right in saying -- how then is a poet to explore notions of, or experiment with, time?

    To be more precise: what happens to the narrative when the idea of 'sequence' is called into question?

  5. A questioning of sequence is still sequence. If I "disorder" something into an unintelligible story, it maintains sequence (and therefore narrative).

    For example, consider splicing a film into discrete scenes and then reordering them. The story may no longer be temporal, but there is still a sequence at work--scene 1, scene 2, scene 3, and so on.

  6. I think I see what you're saying -- that a sequence is tautologically defined, and is a sequence simply because it's experienced sequentially. Very interesting.

    Your reference to film made me wonder: is a 'flashback' (in film, story, etc.) actually a flashing-back of any meaningful kind? The reader is still experiencing the 'flashback' as a part of a sequence, aren't they? And doesn't this overwhelm the external, temporal aspect of the scene? ("Memento" might be a good example of this.)

    This is really interesting to me, in case you're wondering, because I'm currently working on understanding Augustine's notion of time, and how temporality (in part) defines his notion of 'confession'.

    So... I'm basically saying that I'm a nerd. Tee-hee.