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Five poets remark on prose poetry.

In the Fortnightly.

Linda Black: ‘Predicated on the sentence, rather than the poetic line with its considerations of line endings, the prose poem encourages thoughts to be continuous, to twist and turn, hold themselves up short, or open out into a broader perspective, sometimes travelling at great speed.’ More.

Simon Collings: ‘Scholars, and writers alike, struggle when trying to pin down the characteristics of a ‘prose poem’. Apart from a general agreement that there is no lineation, there’s little commonality in the way the terms ‘prose poem’ and ‘prose poetry’ are employed.’ More.

Anthony Howell: ‘The “poem in prose” was taken up by many Gallic poets in order to escape the clutch of the Alexandrine – twelve syllable couplets of iambic hexameter – an orthodoxy which tyrannised the making of French verse during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Baudelaire used the prose-poem to liberate his writing from the Alexandrine, and Rimbaud followed with his brilliant Illuminations.’ More. 

Peter Riley: ‘To avoid endless problems of definition, it would help if they were called “short prose pieces”, which is one thing they undeniably are. This was Eliot’s idea (who hated them). Then it would only be necessary to introduce poetry at a point beyond which it could not be avoided, which would be when the text transgresses into a different language use. Or, rather than “prose-poem” which claims an achieved unity, “prose/poem” which sets up a question.’ More.

Ian Seed: ‘The fact that I discovered prose poems through editions like this meant that for me they quickly became associated with a literature which was underground and subversive. Prose poems were outsiders. In spite of their square shape, they would not be boxed in by academic labels or commercial interests.’ More. 


To Oscar Wilde, writing in The Fortnightly Review in 1894, these are simple Poems in Prose.

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