Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Prose poems: a wide line?

This afternoon, a few of us walked over to Zelda's for fruit smoothies (I had a frozen chai, yumm) and a nice chat about the prose poem. Betsy passed around some books and chapbooks (I was especially drawn to Give Up by Andrew Michael Roberts) (check out all the gorgeous handbound books at Tarpaulin Sky Press) and we read a few poems. One of the interesting notions that came up is Gary Young's notion of the prose poem as one continuous line. I hope I got that right, because it makes so much sense to me: when we abandon control over the line, we have to rely on other devices to keep the poem alive and moving forward. But if we could envision a poem as one long, extended line (I think of taping a paper banner--say, six feet long--to the wall, and writing with no anxiety over the right margin), how might this alter the ways in which we imagine it and bring it into language?

I wanna try this.

Someone's poem (I should have kept notes) reminded me of the imagery in James Wright's "How My Fever Left," and it's interesting that, in that moment, I actually remembered it as a prose poem (Wright used the form well, but of course this particular poem does not). Here's Wright's poem, from The Branch Will Not Break (1963):

How My Fever Left

I can still hear her.
She hobbles downstairs to the kitchen.
She is swearing at the dishes.
She slaps her grease rags
Into a basket,
And slings it over her skinny forearm, crooked
With hatred, and stomps outside.
I can hear my father downstairs,
Standing without a coat in the open back door,
Calling to the old bat across the snow.
She’s forgotten her black shawl,
But I see her through my window, sneering,
Flapping upward
Toward some dark church on the hill.
She has to meet somebody else, and
It’s no use, she won’t listen,
She’s gone.

[photo: some black raspberries I picked for my honey on the way home today]

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