What is prose poetry?
The prose poem is a notoriously difficult form to pin down and define, and every time I have tried to do it I have found examples of writers who break any rules I have discovered. Carrie Etter’s definition is a useful starting point. She defines the prose poem as “circling or inhabiting a mood or idea, perhaps remaining in one place (although not static) rather than moving from A to B as a lineated poem does.”
Like a photograph being processed in the traditional way, in a dark room, the writing of a prose poem could mirror a chemical process that relies on containment within a frame.
At the moment, I see a prose poem as a short form of writing that borrows elements from both poetry and prose but has no line breaks and uses the sentence as its governing formal unit to contain its meaning. It is not often driven by story or narrative but can contain fragments of story that hint at a larger narrative beyond the confines of the prose poem itself. However, I am hoping that this project will help define what the form can do and encourage more writers to be involved.
My own work in the genre often uses imagery, repetition, rhythm and humour. I like the idea of the lyric sentence and always read my work aloud. I have invented voices and characters within my writing, and included journeys, a sense of place and story elements to hold the prose poems together. I have tended to see the writing of a prose poem as close to musical improvisation, particularly jazz, where a musician might take a phrase or idea and riff around it to explore just how far the musical phrase can be played with or pushed.