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Prose Poem


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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
French Verse

The Prose Poem seems to me to be a relatively new and modern innovation and when I look at the history of poetry dating back its roots,  before the written word, it is. However, it isn't as new as I first thought. It is attributed to French poet, Aloysius Bertrand and his Gaspar de la Nuit, 1842. Odd that the French whose verse forms are amongst the most mechanical or technical in the world also gave birth to both Free Verse and the Prose Poem.

If like me, you buy into the theory that it is the line that separates poetry from prose, then how can Prose Poetry exist?  Certainly prose can use figurative language, poetic devices and compression, all essentials of poetry, and still be prose.

Yet when reading Joy Harjo's Prose Poem, Perhaps The World Ends Here there is no question in my mind that this is poetry. Excluding all other features and staying with the line theory, even though the piece strings sentences together in paragraph like units, the units still make use of the space around them. The line is still evident, just a bit longer than the conventional  and a pattern of sorts appears on the page.  The parameters of verse are boundless and Prose Poetry is one more piece of evidence that when soul and craft merge, magic happens and that is poetry.

Given the above, I deduce the elements of prose poetry are:

  1. Units of one or two sentences (sometime three) grouped with space setting each unit apart.
  2. Poetic devices such as imagery, metaphor, etc apparent within the units.
  3.  A visual or content pattern should emerge.

Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared,
set on the table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.

from: Reinventing the Enemy's Language.
Edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird.
New York: Norton, 1997.

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~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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