Wednesday, September 18, 2019

An Essay Then My Note On Prose Poems

Then me:

Actually, I find his argument continually slipping back on itself. 

He starts by knocking the idea of prose poems. 

He does a good job of taking on what he excerpts from the anthology’s Introduction, albeit with some snobby snottiness :

...Beyond many city limits, one finds suburban sprawl, maybe a Boston Pizza...

And he does a good job of taking apart what’s bad about bad ones, and it’s bad ones, it seems, that make up the bulk of the anthology he’s reviewing.
But the first one of his short series of excerpted examples struck me as not bad, as working in its way, with possibilities as poetic.

...A text, resting on a table, having been turned to a page of illustrated finches years before. (The page was torn out years before.) And beside it, the tumbler of water. And beside themselves, the finches. And where the page was torn, an edge. An absence. A muted singing...

It’s at this point in his piece I thought there can be something in these prose poems—btw, a term, prose poem, to which I hadn’t ever given much thought—to which he’s giving insufficient credit and not a fair shake.

Then he cops to it being his own creation.

Then he talks about the example, The Rape Joke:

...It’s a moving, controlled performance, every word in its place, every paragraph paying off. Its precision and music—“more horrible and more habitable”—set it damningly apart from so many of its peers. It’s one of a few exceptions that prove the unruliness all around...

Then he caps off the wiggliness of his argument with this:

...A more ruthless editor might’ve made a stark choice and printed the finest forty prose poems in the language. A top forty. A statement...

which, to my mind, makes it confusing as to what  his argument is precisely—the narrowest proposition his argument comes down to: 

a prose poem is strictly an oxymoron and a mere excuse to indulge faux poetic mediocrity; 


here are some of the big problems with the idea of prose poems; 


this is a lousy anthology that illustrates the oxymoronic;

this is a lousy anthology that illustrates the big problems with the idea of prose poems; 


there are excellent prose poems when deployed by caring, talented poets but all too many of such efforts are vacuous and flabby, examples of artistic slackness and mediocrity. 

In a nutshell then, closely read, his argument backs up on itself. His examples of well crafted prose poems working poetically aren’t exceptions proving the rule. They exemplify excellences achievable in the form. Guriel doesn’t give those possibilities a fair shake, except in spite of himself.

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