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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prose Poems: Definition

A friend and I have started writing prose poems recently, just as an offshoot of our reading. I have been happily doing whatever I like, having written a few before but never really concentrating on the form. So I went looking for a definition - even though, as a true poet by character and inclination, I will always break certain parameters of any definition!

Here's a Dictionary Definition:

From The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, Eds. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993) :

...[It is a] controversially hybrid and (aesthetically and even politically) revolutionary genre... With its oxymoronic title and its form based on contradiction, the p. p. is suitable to an extraordinary range of perception and expression, from the ambivalent (in content as in form) to the mimetic and the narrative (or even anecdotal). ... Its principal characteristics are those that would insure unity even in brevity and poetic quality even without the line breaks of free verse: high patterning, rhythmic and figural repetition, sustained intensity, and compactness.

In the p. p. a field of vision is represented, sometimes mimetically and often pictorially, only to be, on occasion, put off abruptly; emotion is contracted under the force of ellipsis, so deepened and made dense; the rhapsodic mode and what Baudelaire called the “prickings of the unconscious” are, in the supreme examples, combined with the metaphoric and the ontological: the p. p. aims at knowing or finding out something not accessible under the more restrictive conventions of verse
(Beaujour). (p. 977)

Here's a new Australian collection of prose poems -

The Indigo Book of Australian Prose Poems
Michael Byrne (ed.) 2011, Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide. ISBN 1 74027 650 4

This selection of one hundred prose poems published in Australia since the 1970s demonstrates what a hip, bohemian and subversive vein the prose poem is. Prose poetry has proved a most flexible vehicle for an extraordinary range of Australian talent – from Gary Catalano to Joanne Burns, from Ania Walwicz to Alex Skovron. There have been overseas anthologies of prose poems but no Australian counterpart. The Indigo Book of Australian Prose Poems meets the needs of students, reviewers and the general literature loving public. [I hear it also has John Tranter, Tom Shapcott and Andrew Taylor.]

$25.00 To order The Indigo Book of Australian Prose Poems through Ginninderra Press, please go to

1 comment:

Amanda Joy said...

Great share Andrew, off to order the anthology!
Enjoyed the statement on prose poetry also.