On Prose Poetry

Not too long ago, I didn’t know exactly what prose poems were, but I suspected I’d been writing them for a while. I just assumed they were hybrid poems that emphasized the narrative over the lyrical. Apparently I was both right and wrong. In order to better understand what I was doing or what I could do, I read A Field Guide to Prose Poetry, published by Rose Metal Press. As it turns out, I still don’t know exactly what prose poetry is, but that may be the point–this is a kind of literature that resists category. The book is a good starting point nonetheless, as it introduced me to writers who were doing it their own way. One thing that did surprise me here: prose poems tend to be unlineated. They tend to be poems that look like prose on the page, and not vice versa. Many cite Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud as early experimenters. I also went away loving Nin Andrews’ writing, and now I have to get my hands on her books too.

Writing that stretches and defies category has always interested me. Lyrical flashes, collaged fragments, memoir disguised as theory, criticism in poetry. It’s often brave and full of surprises. It dismantles and disrupts. It’s inherently queer. Intertextuality as identity, as a reflection of real life.

After reading, I wanted to find more related texts that could expand the possibilities. I searched online for journals that seek to publish prose poetry, which I will share with you here:

Unbroken Journal
Elsewhere
Pithead Chapel
Threadcount
Ghost Ocean
Contemporary Haibun Online

There used to be more, like Sentence, Double Room, and Prose Poem: An International Journal, but all these seem to be defunct now. Let me know if you have any other suggested readings to contribute.

Recommended Reading #6

  1. Our Dead Behind Us by Audre Lorde
  2. “What Kind of Times Are These” by Adrienne Rich
  3. “Myth” by Muriel Rukeyser
  4. “Sewing Feathers” by Jennifer Givhan
  5. “Tangerine Trees & Little Bags of Sugar” by Su Cho
  6. “The Letter” by Mary Ruefle
  7. “Little Exercise” by Elizabeth Bishop
  8. “Postfeminism” by Brenda Shaughnessy
  9. “Echo” by Raymond Antrobus

South Florida Poetry Reading

Starting the year off, a longer poem of mine has been published in the newest issue of the South Florida Poetry Journal. There’s also an audio recording if you’d like to hear it aloud and follow along. The editors invited me to do a reading – my very first reading anywhere – at the Broward County Library. I don’t like public speaking and I was nervous, but I think it went well. I met poet Denise Duhamel and she signed my copy of her latest book. She was funny and full of infectious energy. She teaches poetry at my alma mater and was trying to convince me to pursue an MFA. I still think about it from time to time.

More good news: I was recently named a finalist for the 2016 Lascaux Prize in Poetry. My poem will be published in an upcoming anthology alongside the other finalists and winner. The poem was inspired by “A Chinese Banquet” by Kitty Tsui. Please do yourself a favor and read her work. Her poems are coming back into print soon, which I’m very excited about.

I’m working towards a full-length collection and have figured out its structure. It’s helping to push me forward, along with a fresh spreadsheet keeping track of all my rejections/acceptances. I’m hoping these neuroses turn into something I can eventually hold in my hands and hug to my chest.

Recommended Reading #5

  1. “The Third Stage” by Kendra Fortmeyer
  2. “Stepping Over My Shadow and Stepping Into Another” by Adam Clay
  3. “Dis Mem Ber” by Joyce Carol Oates, in Boulevard #94
  4. “We May Be Like Fish” by Anna Lea Jancewicz
  5. Issue #19 of the Adroit Journal
  6. Poetry, February 2017 issue
  7. The daily poetry found at the Rise Up Review, for these politically turbulent times
  8. Issue #6 of the Blueshift Journal
  9. Helen McClory’s TinyLetter, which features a weekly spotlight on overlooked books that deserve more love

The 2016 Memory Jar Project

Contents:

  • “Rock the Arts” pin
  • “Gamer Pride” pin
  • Florence + the Machine concert headline
  • GaymerX pass w/ name and preferred pronoun
  • Ticket stubs for Bonnie Raitt concert, Mary Chapin Carpenter w/ Rose Cousins concert
  • Invitation to surprise party celebrating friend’s parents’ 30th anniversary
  • Business card from my favorite used bookstore, Finding Forrester’s Books
  • Express pass for Universal Studios
  • Key card from Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Halloween skull pen given to me by coworker, complete w/ glowing eyes and demonic noises
  • Map from San Antonio Museum of Art
  • Map from San Francisco Botanical Garden
  • Pamphlet from San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers