On the Prose Poem

In the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Chris Watson reluctantly defends the prose poem:

Young's voice has found its truest expression in the prose poem.

"They're adaptable to what I want to do," he said, adding, "They're too exciting to give up."

The author of five books of poetry, Young believes two things about the prose poem: one, that they are as viable a form as conventional lined poems and, two, they don't need to be defended.

"I'm a reluctant proponent and apologist for the prose poem," he said. "I don't know what the fuss is all about."

And yet, the lack of a suitable anthology of prose poems for the classroom is exactly the reason that Young and fellow editor and poet Christopher Buckley decided to publish "Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California," printed by Young's own Greenhouse Review Press.

More here.

At it's most basic, a prose poem is written in prose rather than verse, however, the prose poem is a slippery creature. While I agree with Young that the prose poem doesn't need to be defended, I disagree that there aren't any suitable prose poem anthologies out there. The best one I'm thinking of is David Lehman's anthology, Great American Prose Poems.

In it, Lehman summarizes its French heritage and outlines its history in the United States and traces the shifty form in all its shapes and sizes from Poe and Stein to Edson and Ashbery.

For anyone interested in the current state of the prose poem, I'd recommend one of the greatest living masters of the form: James Tate.

Here's a review of Tate's newest collection, The Ghost Soldiers.

No comments: