I Don’t Believe in Prose Poems

Prose poetry is a weird little fish. Most days I don’t know what to do with it, and its existence seems like a joke. I mean, prose poetry. Really? Most definitions seem… unsatisfying. Even Peter Johnson editor of The Prose Poem: An International Journal says of it, “Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.”

So it’s fiction, right? Or biography. Or some wishful mix of the two, weighing in at under 1,000 words soaking wet. Yeah, that’s it. Yet when I edit the stuff, I pay attention to every. Single. Word. I measure each sentence like a line, cutting articles and snipping prepositions willy-nilly until it feels right on my tongue, and though I’m careful with prose, this mode I use to edit these little slivers of something-in-between is that of poetry.

And that’s part of my problem these days, you see. It’s all coming out prose poems. Enjambed little stings of assonance, unfolding sideways tellings of old stories, trying to get at the root of what made them important. I don’t know what’s important anymore, but if I’ve learned anything in my kaleidoscopic years, it’s that I should just go with it. Rabbits know best.

Maybe I should clap my hands along the way, in case my skepticism has struck down any pretty lines.

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