Trouble with Prose Poetry

I used to think I understood prose poetry on a deeper level since I’m primarily a fiction writer. Well, maybe not understand it, but I felt like I connected to it more at the very least.

Since starting this poetry class on the line, including its breaks, meanings, and uses in poetry, I’ve found myself stuck in the way I think about the line as my previously-held beliefs are solidified when I’m able to catch my preferences in another’s poetry: primarily, the line being used as a way to provide double-meanings, suspense, and most importantly, emphasis.

When it comes to prose poetry, line breaks are somehow…less thought out to me. I see the merit in recognizing that each line – when it breaks – can do a different thing, or continuously expand on the initial idea presented (these ideas have also been solidified the more I’ve read prose poetry), but the margins really control the poem, whether it takes up a whole page or is broken by an indented margin. The language doesn’t dictate the line break, but the end of the line’s space does; it seems that form, here, is controlling content, when I’m used to thinking about it the other way around.

Trying to break out of my set views on the line is what I intended to do at the start of the course, but I find myself getting more and more wrapped up in the views I already held. Even when I read advice offered in Rios’ work, I curtail other ways to view a line, seeing that these all connect back to emphasis or tension in some way. How does one rectify this problem?

3 Replies to “Trouble with Prose Poetry”

  1. “When it comes to prose poetry, line breaks are somehow…less thought out to me.”
    I’m not surprised, considering there are no line breaks in prose poetry. 😛

    When reading poetry, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to try and analyze the margin-defined line breaks. It seems to me that that’s like criticizing an pizza parlor for not selling ice cream—ice cream is a great treat, but by fretting over its absence, we’re unable to enjoy the wonderful greasiness of the pizza. Much in the same way, by criticizing a prose poem’s “lack” of meaningful line breaks, we distract ourselves from the prose poem’s purposeful, more meaningful qualities, such as its imagery, its metaphor, the cadence of its words.

    1. I really like your pizza metaphor! I’m submitting a prose piece for workshop and I couldn’t help but mess with the margins to get some of the line breaks I wanted. How do you create hesitation and suspense in grease though when ice cream seems to do it so well?

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