A short article (especially the title) caught my eye the other day:
McPherson (KS) Stentinel (6/29 ’12): “Prose poetry valid form”
Many of [Mary Stone Dockery’s] poems are prose poems, and she admitted some question if poetry written in prose style should be considered poetry. / In reading her book and listening to her read, I believe the prose poetry is an appropriate venue of expression. / I think too often poets confine themselves to rigid forms. Instead of the form confining the expression, the expression should dictate the form.
A bit of digging easily turned up Dockery’s blog and a short work “Too Much to Drink” which would have fit right in at an Ordinary Joe’s reading over the last few years, f-bombs included:
… The tequila swelters inside me like a hot knife, it razors my esophagus, pull over so I can throw up, pull over so …
I’ll let the adults in the audience exercise their googling skills, this being a family site. But note the simile and typically poetic prosody (move your mouth while you read this and you’ll note some regular rhythms that force you to slow down at times). You can compare this with the quote above from Janney’s newspaper article. Even though a quirk of the Sentinel’s site rendered the thing as what looks like a long-line poem, note how the journalese encourages you to suck up the gist of the text without slowing down.
That being said, I’m not sure if “Too Much to Drink” might be better thought of as stream-of-consciousness as opposed to prose poetry. Perhaps the defining prose poetry epoch of the 20th century was “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept” (1945) by Elizabeth Smart (1913-1986). In that long work the paragraphs work, although the reading experience is similar to Dockery’s short prose poem.
Which finally comes around to where I had originally wanted to start, “This Fear of Being Touched”, in outskirts (2011) by local poet Sue Goyette. Without the prose poem format parts of this one might have degenerated into a list poem:
… Forgive the chimney and sweeping hands. The commandeering hands. Forgive the suicide hands, the hands that threw, that pulled, that pushed. …
The point in Goyette’s prose poem seems to be to intensify the title image, which you could also say about “Too Much to Drink”.
Anyway, poetry professor Brian Bartlett runs a beginning poetry writing course just down the road, and in Homework Assignment #1 the new student is invited to write a “foot poem” or a “hand poem”. Although Goyette has advanced by leaps and bounds (to coin a cliche) over the last several years, I was having a certain amount of fun speculating that an early draft of “This Fear of Being Touched” might have been a really early work 😉
Lightning still rises from that black stuff
but it’s guttering now. One ring floats
between the two lovers,
they look away as it flutters.
Dishes refuse to heave back onto their shelves,
silly sleeves play hide-and-seek in coats,
and the stillness has drained away from still.
So much passes from one to the other
(grains fall one by one from the left balance pan)
each ordinary day steals away at midnight