The prose poem exists in a gray area, where two otherwise separate forms of writing coincide, at least for a moment. Not entirely poetry, not entirely fiction, these poems can be read as commentaries on form and the nature of form. Or as Robert Creeley put it "Form is never more than an extension of content." Diana Delgado's
poem "M-U-R-D-E-R" is considered a prose poem because there are no line breaks. But to what extent is this prose? There are no punctuation marks, no sentences as we traditionally think of them. Prose as an idea is just as disrupted as the traditional look of poetry. This prose poem emerges as a thing unto itself, the brief capture of a series of thoughts that without an imposed grammar or line breaks become "songs of escape".
The opening of Chris Shipman's
poem "Bio" could be the opening of a novel or short story: "I come from a small town in a dry county." But something happens to the narrator as he goes in search of a liquor store. He hears something, and everything changes. The story falls away leaving us with words on a page unbuttressed by plot. What we are left with, all that we are really ever left with in a piece of writing, is that voice staggering through the woods. Periodically, like the narrator, we are lucky, and that voice reaches us.
poem adds more trappings of what we might initially consider typical prose. The poem is longer than the other poems this week and incorporates paragraph breaks. The title places us in a distinct and recognizable setting for a thriller of a plot: Alcatraz Island. What we get, though, is not an escape story. Instead, they (who are they, anyway?) yell "Walls!"—a call that becomes, as Heidegger states it, "a calling that names, a bidding which, out of the simple onefold of the difference, bids thing and world to come." Each sentence here is its own separate call, bidding a thing of world to come: walls, tide pools, herons, egrets, women, the dead, and the young. And underneath an eternal song persists: the world's song.
In this series of three poems by Nicky Schildkraut
, prose itself becomes a structure that can disintegrate and fall away. From the first poem, cracks begin to appear in the form of two line breaks in an otherwise block of prose, then a handful of breaks in the second poem, and finally a fully lineated poem. Prose is not an absence of form, but a form itself that crumbles into the different form of what we typically recognize as a poem. At what point does this transformation cease to be a prose poem and become a poem? "The moral of this story is: You understand only so much
." Ultimately, the answer is immaterial. The poem is the poem as it creates itself on the page and, as Emerson called for, "let us have nothing now which is not its own evidence."