Absolute radio silence on my recent "Prose or Doze" post, which asked you to define prose poetry.
Not one reply.
To be honest, I'm not surprised. That's because 1) it's incredibly difficult to define prose poetry 2) most people don't seem to have much of an interest in prose poems. Personally, I find them tempting. And I think a meaningful, if not complete, definition for what makes a prose poem could be attempted.
"A prose poem is a poem without stanzas that combines poetic and prose devices, emphasizing mood, theme, and emotion over plot."
Not so in a prose poem.
Allow me to demonstrate these principles with a single prose poem. The poem is "All Girl Band" by Utahna Faith. It's posted at The Cafe Irreal. You can read the full text by clicking the picture above.
Your first reaction is probably going to be: "But, Daniel, it's flash fiction, not a prose poem."
Wrong I say!
This is a prose poem. And it's a really good one. Even better that Faith has pushed the form just about as close to prose as you could go without crossing over. That will prove my definition true!
Reading over the poem, the first thing we notice is the plot does not resolve. We never know what crime the all girl band is guilty of or why these pretty vamps are headed to jail. The second thing we notice is that the lack of resolution doesn't seem wrong for the work, artistically.
It seems, in fact, perfect for the mood and emotion. That we don't know makes the all girl band more than Stoker groupies; it paints them into myth. Into imagination. Which is where they originated.
So, we're actually talking about poetic ideas like maturity, nostalgia, karma, self-expression, wisdom, and individuation. Yes, those are themes equally applicable to prose, but prose tends to resolve them for good or bad. In this case, the ghosts of the girls hover forever in a blood-craving precipice of lost youth; in a loop of language and imagery that proves that a talented poet like Faith is not only free to swim in fantasy and nostalgia, but can emerge from the depths with captivating, somehow still "living" relics.
The girls are sexual freedom youth and rebellion lost in the prison of adulthood. Yes, but did you see this coming? They can get free whenever they want. They did so when Faith wrote this poem which defies all convention, is very sexy and rebellious, and about as free as any piece of comprehensible writing can be.
I think the poem demonstrates harmony of age and youth -- reflected in harmony of prose and poetry. Get it? Sure you do! But it can be either way. The prose can be youth or age. Which, again, defies convention, and frees us up if we really engage with that poetic koan.
Finally, here are two solid examples of how Faith "straightens" poetic lines into shining prose poetry:
"How can I be so white-skinned, ebony-haired, red-lipped and ethereal, when my mother, at my age with the same face and body, was suntanned, golden-haired, peach-lipped and earthbound?"
"I am back in our old house, bad house, in my old room, changing clothes. What does one wear to jail? I am frightened."
We know that the "jail" here must be metaphorical so that resolves the issue of whether the line above is just good, honest prose. It's not allegory. It's more akin to tone-painting and expressionism. The idea of "jail" and eternal youth make a beautiful poetic statement, but to effectively pull it off in prose you'd need at least 10k words. You'd have to make the reader know and care for the characters and their histories. Here, this isn't a consideration because, as I've been saying, this is poetry.
So why arrange it in paragraphs and not stanzas?
Because in paragraphs it moves like a narrative and makes the lack of resolution more powerful. It's a brilliant artistic choice. An analogy might be a song like "Sympathy for the Devil" where the Rolling Stones tried numerous traditional formats for the song before finally hitting on the calypso beat that gives the song a sinister edge to Western ears. Without that sinister edge, you've still got Jagger's amazing lyrics but Lucifer / Legba is only half-materialized.
If you wrote "All Girl Band" as a short story or novel it would be YA vampire fiction? That's light years from what we have here which is more like accomplished Confessional poetry combined with surrealism. Anne Sexton might crib something here, if she could look past her dogeared copy of Illuminations.
I rest my case?