I have in other articles wrote briefly on poetic prose, or the prose poem, as I see it, as I have also put my view in a recent book on both Lyric Poetry and Poet Prose, matter of fact, in two separate books. In this article let me express poetic prose, or the prose poem, in two of my poems, one: “The Meatpacker’s Boy,” (or, MPB), a long poem in the book “Days” and the poem: “Requiem for a Gang” (or, RG).
What makes them poetic prose, or a prose poem, in my eyes, and in those of other poets eyes? Let’s start out with “Requiem for a Gang,” a poem of over 5000-words, this long, in comparison to some. You can get lost in this poem looking for the elements that make it what it is. Both poems can be found on the internet: RG: the center of attraction is what? Perhaps we might say the good and the evil; the point, one can escape if s/he so desires, we are not fated to a certain unescapable certainty! Thus, Escape! Also let’s look at the insight in the poem: in man’s universe, he lives with no gravity, in other words, we all live or have our own amusements. What is the state of mind of the poet here? Perhaps we can say there is no head or tail, no beginning or end, life is experience and boredom can kill, evil is demonic and good is ideal. Experience your imagination if possible.
Now let’s shift to the second poem I do realize I put the ingredients out rapidly, and perhaps too oversimplified, but I’ll try to straighten it out later: “The Meatpacker’s poem,” I believe more on the category of 3500-words. In comparison to Baudelaire or Robert Bly’s poetic prose, these two poems are quite runny, with long sentences. Hence, Poetic Prose, or the Prose Poem, is done in sentences. What Shakespeare could not do with Rhyme and meter, he did with blank verse; in a similar manner, what the more up to date poet cannot do with fixed meter and rhyme, he does with poetic prose. The difference between MPB and RG, is this, again the so called center of attraction we are seeking-if there is none, well, then the poem is something else-it is this in a nutshell: life is not so much carved out on fact, as experience and imagination. Insight, grab opportunity, you can change your habit and character; again perhaps oversimplified, but I do not want to make a long article out of this.
Now I want to shift again, and repeat some of the things I wrote before in my articles on Poetic Prose (relating them to the two poems I’ve mentioned above): it’s not as easy as you think, it all doesn’t fall into one big lump, there are different mounds of it, and there have been several masters of it. In other words, what I wrote in the two above poems, its language, is not as import as the story it carries, or brings out: and I already told you what it brings out. That is to say, what it illuminates: you might say, both poems illuminate two things in particular: escape from what you might see as an unwanted fate, and becoming more than what destiny had planned for you. In some poetry, we find imagery and fiery language that draws away from the story, we see much of this in George Sterling’s poetry, and Clark A. Smith, and other such poets, and we don’t want this to be the main goal here.
Now let’s us shift a tinge, the object poem in poetic prose, look for the object, and you’ll find the story, in both poems above, the object is the “Poet” writing it, he escaped in both cases. In other words, in a snow storm, the object is the snow, and what is the storm doing? In the two poems above, what is the poet telling us, or doing, what is happening in the long run? He’s escaping from what? What he sees as fate. And in the MPB, he is grabbing opportunity. Perhaps a few more themes here. In both poems we see insight coming in layers in order to come close to the object, which is in the center of attraction. We see that both poems are nourished in the spirit of the man, the poet, he has given gravity to his universe, where there was no gravity. The point, he sees good for good and evil for evil, and does not judge, as to be able to jump over the hurdles already in place. The point is to give to Caser what belongs to Caser and to Christ, the same. What is the poet saying? If you want to know what war is like, go to war, experience you imagination. Thus, the poem is rendering to the poet’s mind, or translating the poets mind.
Why are we using the sentence and not the meter or line? The poetic lines in poetry are given more to incite, for excitement and emotion, but it takes away from the story, this we do not want. Thus, the mood is calmer with the sentence, the difference might be, in an analogy: sailing the waters in the Galapagos which are very calm if you have sailed them, versus the Drake Passage, which can be devastating, I have been in both area. There is less abstraction in Poetic Prose in the Galapagos than the Drake, and it thus, sinks more into men’s minds, into unconscious.
I could go on and on with this subject, but I think you get the picture, or at least what I’m trying to express. We may all think different on this, so let it be at that, this is the way I see things. I do hope it has been in any case, helpful for the inexpert; and listen, we are not compelled to stick with the so called ordained way of doing things or thinking the same way poets in the past have thought, English in in no way limited to the dictionary, or grammar former professor who felt it now should be written in stone.
It can be altered, just ask William Faulkner has done to the language of is roots: he was an expert at it altercations. Or as George Sterling done with his poetry, in altering it to blurred images lost in the cosmos, of the unseen. Or for that matter E.E. Cummings, whose poetry which was written for his benefit, not the readers, and to understand one must not be of the common folk, for it has its own language. Ezra Pound on the other hand, felt if something gets in the way of making a poem richer, get rid of it. For example, the Sonnet. The Haiku, which Jack Kerouac loved so dearly, had changed it completely, feeling the Japanese’s style was too confining. Robert Lowell brought the confessional poet into existence, more so than anyone perhaps up to his first printing of its chilling and unsettling autobiographical fragments. And then of course we see Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, taking his course of action, become more frank and outspoken in poetic verse of whatever fits. And Poe’s deep decent into the abyss, and his followers such as Clark A. Smith, and Baudelaire, all worshiping the devil, on their decline into Hades. And then we step into the world of Allen Ginsberg the perverted: which I believe his poetry should be read behind closed curtains; his raw tones, and cutouts and 1200-page collection of poems are as nasty as the tongue can get: at times seemingly more reporting style than prose narrative, less than poetry or poetic prose would be called; and his musical perverted verse which is the devil playing Santa Claus, throwing his presents of muck down everyone’s chimney. And Robinson Jeffers, rich style of poetic structure, and his frozen anger.
Francis Ponge’s poetic prose, or prose poem, is imbedded into the rightness of the nutrient known as the mind-the imagination verses the language: the things; if we are looking at the two poems mentioned above, the things that are in the poem. Ponge looks at the spoken expressions, slang, thus he uses language to do flip-flops for him, to the point of absurdum. Seeking the unconscious phenomenology. He felt I do believe, like Pound felt I believe resisting theories, or philosophic doctrine, methods, that a person’s most enduring work, and lasting, resists all formulas, even those he has stuck with forever. This, this makes each poem a decree unto itself. This I do believe is what “Requiem for a Gang,” and “The Meatpacker’s Boy? Is in essence, in its particular circumstances of conception. He had what you might call the long journey poems. Again, somewhat of what you see in the two I just mentioned, they are in essence long journey poems.
Ponge like Jeffers was made at the human condition of his time; this penetrated both Ponge, and Jeffers minds. Like Poe’s Eureka. As we can see with many of these poets, they reinvent language, as do some authors, in their novels; James Joyce, Faulkner. What we see in the two poems we are looking at in the first paragraphs that Ponge brings out in a prose poem could be spontaneous thinking, which might cover the nutrient of the mind, absurdum.