Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Flash Fiction and Prose Poetry: a personal comment

Dialing back may be a description of part of the process I follow in rewriting my fiction.

Rough drafts of my fiction often unfold as prose poems, sections of narrative prose that flow with the rhythms, tension, and lyricism of poetry. The process of revision is the process of pulling the narrative elements more into the progressions of everyday prose, of taking the exotic, unknown, half-seen bird of paradise and placing it clearly on the fence post or tree limb--a bluebird or an oriole, beautiful yet more familiar.

On the website of the Academy of American Poets, the page for "Poetic Form: Prose Poem" provides a clear definition of what prose poetry is, and the page also describes the form's birth and development. Users of the form include such poetry greats as William Wordsworth, Charles Baudelaire ("Be Drunk"), Ranier Marie Rilke, Pablo Neruda, and William Carlos Williams. Contemporary poets using the form include Richard Wright and Charles Simic. The article concludes with "Campbell McGrath’s winding and descriptive 'The Prose Poem' " which is labeled "a recent example of the form."

Edgar Wiseman's book of flash fiction, Briefs, embodies that sense of the prose poem, skirting the line between prose and poetry:
They pass terrible Mason’s and stop right at the spot the boy died. Then they commence to swaying, bowing, hugging, waving their arms about. Forgive me, Jesus, but look like they grief dancing, like the sidewalk too cold or too hot they had to jump around not to burn up.

A Wikipedia article on prose poetry (incomplete yet containing some instructive comments) mentions "The distinction between flash fiction and prose poetry is at times very thin, almost indiscernible." The article adds that the form has been considered "subversive," as corrupting the integrity of both narrative prose and poetry.

Sounds like innovation to me.

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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