Prose Poetry Symposium 13th July 2019 bookings now open from
Start date: 30 Mar 2019
Prose Poetry Symposium and Anthology Launch
To mark the publication of The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, edited by Anne Caldwell and Oz Hardwick, there will be a one-day symposium at Leeds Trinity University (UK) on Saturday 13th July 2019.
Co-ordinated by Anne Caldwell and Professor Oz Hardwick
The prose poem is currently experiencing a surge in popularity, with the recent publication of The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem: From Baudelaire to Anne Carson, ed. Jeremy Noel-Tod (Penguin, 2018) and British Prose Poetry: The Poems Without Lines (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) being just the most prominent demonstrations of the form’s rude health. The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, edited by Caldwell and Hardwick, demonstrates the rich variety of prose poems currently being written in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Panel members at this symposium include representatives from the UK, Holland, Australia and The United States.
Leeds Trinity University, 13 July 2019
Leeds Trinity University
How to book:
Please visit Eventbrite for a number of booking options.
For further information, please contact Anne Caldwell: firstname.lastname@example.org
Programme of the Day
Breaking Boundaries and Crossing Lines: English-language prose poetry today
Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton and Professor Paul Hetherington
English-language prose poetry is flourishing and international prose poetry boundaries are porous. As new prose poetry anthologies are published and critical work about the form increases, prose poets increasingly find themselves in the poetic mainstream. Yet, 150 years after the publication of Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, the question remains: what constitutes a prose poem? And, while many different kinds of prose poems have been identified, innovations such as the ‘free-line’ challenge boundaries of the form. Meanwhile, the influential US prose poetry tradition – so often associated with an ironic humour and neo-surrealism – is celebrating hybridization (in the work of Claudia Rankine) and dense poetic prose (in the work of Anne Boyer). Further, Patricia Lockwood’s influential ‘The Rape Joke’ exemplifies a growing tradition of post-feminist poetic prose and publication via social media. In addressing these issues, we ask what prose poetry is becoming and what recent criticism says about the growing significance of the form.
11.00am – 12.15pm
Panel 1a: The Shape(s) We’re In – Form and the Prose poem (3 Papers)
Patrick Wright: ‘A Hybrid Form?: The Ekphrastic Prose Poem’
This paper will investigate how ekphrasis (loosely defined as writing in response to images) might engage with prose poetry. I am interested in discussing, with reference to my own poems and my PhD research, how the shape and formal properties of a poem relate with those of an image. For instance, some of my recent poems, responding to the seascapes of J.M.W. Turner, stretch from one side of the page to the other, or the orientation of the page is landscape, mimicking or finding some correspondence with the visual prompt. Along with the dialogue between form and content, I will look at framing or the boundaries that govern both the poem and the image, and how these correspond or jar against each other. Reference will be made to Oulipo techniques and procedural verse, with the thesis that such approaches can provide an organising principle for the ekphrastic prose poem.
Hannah Stone: 'In the Eye of the Beholder’: Prose Poetry in Dialogue
This paper examines prose poetry from a practitioner perspective. It takes as its starting point responses to the author’s prose poems by readers and teases out whether (to misquote Humpty Dumpty), the concept of ‘prose poetry’ can be ‘just what I choose it to mean’, or whether it needs to follow existing exempla and forms. It considers whether the decision to write prose poetry rather than other types of poetry is determined primarily by its function. It posits that prose poetry lends itself to a spiral, meditative process rather than a linear narrative locution. It suggests that rather than neglecting expected formal components of poetry such as rhythm and rhyme, prose poetry employs and subverts them. It concludes that the answer to Alice’s question whether you can make ‘words’ mean so many different things is ‘yes.’
Lisa Matthews: ‘Lines, Shapes & Evolving Taxonomy’
What do we do when a stanza is not a stanza? How might we manage and utilise the margins and other extra-textual factors? How can a poem be a poem when it rejects one of the fundamental characteristics of most writing that we call poetry (the line break)? And aren’t the x and y axes the stuff of geometry and mathematics? This paper isn’t a call to arms for prose poetry – we already know it exists and plays an important role in creative writing and literary discourse; instead it is a celebration of prose poetry’s ambiguity, and a practice-led exploration of both its fluidity, and taxonomical intersectionality. In this paper, we will look at: some of the words we use when we talk about what we do as prose poets; how classification can be a poetic device in its own right, and how messing around with shapes and lines can lead to asemic and non-textual works. Lisa Matthews will share some reflections from her current doctoral research into prose poetry sequences, and this talk follows on from a paper Lisa published in a Special Issue of TEXT (Oct 2017) where she began to consider the taxonomy of prose poetry in relation to its editorial momentum in printed collections and performative installations.
Or Panel 1b: Conversations with the Living and Dead (3 Papers)
Jen Webb: ‘Collaboration and Conversation: Prose Poem as Renga’
Poets have not, traditionally, been very committed to collaborative writing. In the western tradition, collaboration has more often been a matter of intertextual references than shared activity resulting in a single poem authored by two or more poets. The Japanese poetry tradition is more directed toward the conversational, collaborative mode of practice, in particular the renga form, which has been adopted by some western poets in recent years. This paper addresses the adoption of a renga-like mode of practice among prose poets: where two or more poets take turns to compose prose poems that respond to each other, and in this way construct a narrative or explore a theme or topic over the course of several poems. I discuss the ways in which the prose poem form, with its potential for a narrative arc, facilitates the production of collaborative writing, and what this affords for the development of thought and image.
Tania Hershman: ‘Prose Poetry meets Flash Fiction: Safe Passage’
I began as a writer of short stories, terrified of poetry, never having developed a love for it at school. When my first fiction collection came out, a reviewer asked why the flash fictions “weren't actually poems” and I began to wonder. Surely they couldn't be, because I wasn't a poet? I started noticing that the contributors to many flash fiction magazines like Nanofiction and Smokelong Quarterly mentioned poems in their biogs, and I began so sidle towards poetry, slowly and from the side, using the prose poem as my passport, my compass, my talking stick. I have since had a poetry chapbook and a collection published and am working on a new collection, as well as writing prose. In my presentation I will talk about how prose poetry can be a “safe passage” for poets and fiction writers, where we meet, exchange notes, gently take a step in a new direction.
Edwin Stockdale: ‘An Interlude Suspended: The Relationship Between Fiction, Prose Poetry, Poetry and History'
In this paper I will examine the formal boundaries and border crossings of the prose poem from a creative writing practitioner’s point of view. I will look at definitions of the prose poem, whether I agree with them and how they relate to my own work. In terms of shifting boundaries, the prose poems I am writing for my practice-led Creative Writing PhD have all been written when the poems could not be broken down into separate lines. I wish to interrogate this further, to ask why this is the case. In my own work, prose poems are written as a response to ekphrasis and psychogeography (exploring landscapes related to Richard III, the Princes in the Tower and their families). What is the link between fiction, poetry, prose poetry and history? The prose poem blurs the lines between forms and allows me to access the small, intimate moments of history.
Book Launch and Readings – The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, Edited by Anne Caldwell and Oz Hardwick.
Prose poetry is at the cutting edge of contemporary writing, freeing words from the bounds of traditional poetic grammar and bringing the magic of verse to flash fiction. In this ambitious, ground-breaking anthology, Valley Press showcases new work from a diverse range of UK writers, carefully curated by editors Anne Caldwell and Oz Hardwick.
Featuring bite-sized morsels of original writing from familiar names like Simon Armitage, Jen Hadfield, Luke Kennard, Helen Mort, George Szirtes, Kim Moore, Carrie Etter and a host of new talent, this is the ideal travelling companion for readers searching for a mind-expanding literary adventure.
1.00pm – 1.45pm Lunch
There is a choice of attending further panel papers or a prose poetry workshop
2.00pm – 4.00pm
Led by Anne Caldwell, the 2 hour writing workshop will involve exploring how to draft and edit prose poems, what makes a good prose poem and different approaches to the form. Anne will bring examples of work to share, and there will be time for writing, using a number of prompts.
Or Two Further Panel Presentations
2.00pm – 3.15pm
Panel 2a: Inhabiting the Ambiguous Edges (3 Papers)
Divya Nadkarni: ‘Hidden in a Snatch of Prose’ – Strategic Allegories, Reinterpretations, and the Politics of the Contemporary Indian-English Prose Poem
This paper suggests that the prose poem inhabits an important place in contemporary Indian English poetry, one that is as yet theoretically unexplored: On the one hand it is a bridge between the long and (largely) globally invisible vernacular traditions of poetry and the relatively newer tradition of poetry in the English language; on the other hand, it plays with and effectively challenges the Anglo-American poetic influences it inherits (Patke 2006). Such a double-articulation, I would argue constitutes the radical politics of the Indian-English prose poem, where both vernacular traditions and conventional poetic forms are radically reinterpreted.
The prose-poems of Vivek Narayanan (Life and Times of Mr. S, 2012) and Nandini Dhar (Historians of Redundant Moments, 2016) are taken as case studies for this paper which examines the poems’ political gesture as 1) a strategic allegory – showing a way to reflect on the processes by which political subjectivities are created, and poems do politics, and 2) a door to a deep historical archive that re-enacts, reinterprets, and thus challenges the forms of political precarity that characterize poetic practice today.
Philip Jones: ‘The Book of Tides: Prose Poetry at the Water’s Edge’
This paper intends to explore some of the ways in which the contested and transgressive formal qualities of the prose poem have been used by a variety of modern and contemporary British poets to engage with the coastal landscapes of the United Kingdom. A terrain which itself is often associated with ideas of metamorphosis, instability and syncretic temporal and spatial experiences (the fossil past and the ecological future, horizon and destination), this paper wants to ask what it is about the formal and poetic strategies offered by the prose poem which appeals to those poets engaged in work at the water’s edge.
Of particular interest is the way the prose poem often seems to allow the coastal landscape inside the form of the poem, producing the erosions, collapses and accretions of littoral geography in the semantic and grammatical machinery of the sentence, drawing attention.
JuEunhae Knox: ‘#Nofilter: Forking Hashed Lightning through Instapoetry, Poe(t/m)-tagging, and Literary Naturalism’
#embraceyourauthenticself. This hashtag typifies the short, prosaic quotes associated with the popular new genre of Instapoetry. Instagram is infamous for filtered selfies, yet 7.6 million posts to #poetsofinstagram indicate a surprisingly massive interest in digital poetry. In a world increasingly conscious of its inauthenticity, visually-aesthetic Instapoems both exhibit and confront consumerist principles. However, this so-called “fidget-spinner” literature is virtually unheard of in academia. While a few magazines have featured Rupi Kaur, no work has extensively analyzed Instapoetry and poe(t/m)-tagging, especially in relationship to canonized literature. My research compares Instapoets’ prosaic practices in writing, stylizing, and promoting with those of naturalist novelists like Dreiser and Wharton. Although Instapoets and naturalists participated in and resisted highly visual consumer-culture shifts in “unreal” capitalist societies. By examining how IGpoetry has become the contemporary model of selling “real, raw empowerment”, I question whether subsumed literary “goods” can deconstruct our own consumerism and expose the meta-good.
Or Panel 2b: Reading the Machines – History and Meaning in the Prose Poem (3 Papers)
Nicholas Lauridsen: ‘Nobody’s Storybook: Reading Russell Edson for the Wrong Reasons’
A single literary form has rarely enjoyed such a champion as Russell Edson in his devotion to the prose poem. Heralded as the “grandfather of the American prose poem,” Edson published thirteen collections of prose poems in his lifetime and remains an imposing figure in the history of the form. Yet, contrary to the form’s heritage in Bertrand and Breton and the tenor of its abiding practice even today, Edson did not consider himself a Surrealist or his poems to be surreal. For a poet who writes about jumping moons and cow-slaying rabbits and a married couple fighting a tree (and losing), Edson’s pointed disavowal may seem hard to accept. And yet we are left to wonder: If Edson’s poetry is not surreal, then why is it so consistently strange, opaque, and otherworldly – characteristics of his writing that seem to fit the very dictionary definition of “surreal”? And why does his poetry, as much as it may alienate us, baffle us, and stymie us, also inevitably captivate and fascinate us? This paper explores Edson’s relationship to the surreal in his verse practice, as well as the unique characteristics of the prose poem form that he proposes, establishes, and exploits.
Susie Campbell: ‘Borders on Edges, where Skin Stops, or Begins'
The prose poem's relationship with the discourses of fashion and food in the work of Baudelaire, Gertrude Stein, Harryette Mullen and others. From the outset, the prose poem as pioneered by Baudelaire has engaged not only with the modern and the urban but also with the urban domestic interior, sometimes manifesting as a preoccupation with the discourses of food, furnishings and fashion. Stein's decentering of domestic discourses, and notions of gender and the female body associated with them, has been profoundly influential in the use of the form by contemporary poets with similar concerns such as Mullen, Anne Carson and Sophie Robinson. However, its relationship with the domestic is ironic: the closer the prose poem gets to non-poetic uses of prose in the 'prosaic' discourses of fashion, beauty and cooking, the more clearly it must establish its difference. The linguistic strategies it uses to do this exposes a 'dialogism' intrinsic to the form, whilst demonstrating the form's ability to orchestrate the echoes and tones of other prose discourses into complex 'polysemous' poetry.
Helen Tookey:‘“Image Machine”: Gaspar Orozco’s Book of the Peony and The Prose-Poem Sequence’
The city is a huge image machine. A slot machine for the solitaries.
– Charles Simic, Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell
In this presentation I will focus on Mexican poet Gaspar Orozco’s book-length prose-poem sequence Book of the Peony (translated from Spanish by Mark Weiss and published by Shearsman in 2017). In particular, I would like to explore the idea of this collection as a kind of ‘image machine’, presenting a sequence of ‘views’ of a central image or idea (that of the peony), which is shown to us in numerous ways but nonetheless remains fundamentally enigmatic, allowing the work to go on generating meanings (similarly, I would argue, to Joseph Cornell’s assemblages). I will then consider what aspects of the prose-poem as a form, and the prose-poem sequence in particular, enable this effect.
3.15pm - Comfort Break
3.30pm - 4.45pm
Panel 3a: Memory and Voices: using prose poetry to write memoir and biography (3 Papers)
Susannah Ronnie: ‘A Mutinous Form: Possibilities and Limitations for Writing Seventeenth Century Voices’
Susannah Ronnie (University of Northumbria) will focus on how she is using different poetic forms to capture the voices of the explorer Henry Hudson and his crew (1610), and how the prose form proved an uncomfortable fit for Hudson's voice.
Katy Wareham Morris: ‘Approaching Personal Space: Using the Prose Poem to write Immediate Family Memoir’
Katy Wareham Morris (University of Worcester) uses the prose form to articulate her own father's voice, following interviews about the closing of the car factory where he worked for many years. Focusing on memories and capturing social history in prose poetry.
Ruth Stacey: ‘Decorative Ambiguity: Writing Imagined Memoir using Symbolist Poetic Form’
Ruth Stacey (University of Northumbria) is using the prose poetry form as a Symbolist poetic technique, following in the footsteps of Baudelaire and Rimbaud to express the voice of the Symbolist artist Pamela Colman Smith(1878-1951).
Or Panel 3b: Insiders on an ‘Outsider’ Artform (4 Papers)
Ian Seed, Jane Monson, Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton
In this panel, four prose poets who are also scholars of the form consider the capacity for prose poetry to defamiliarize the known. They discuss ways in which the form is able to estrange the familiar through registering surprising observations and a sense of ‘outsider’ knowledge, often with the use of marginalised narrators. These issues will be discussed against the backdrop of the growing popularity of the prose poem as it as it moves increasingly fluidly between the margins and the mainstream.
As part of this panel discussion each participant will read and critique one or two of their own prose poems, focusing on its narrative and poetic strategies and whether it may be understood as a form of ‘outsider’s art’. They will discuss their practice as prose poets in relation to the themes of environment, culture and ‘influence’, as well as the place of the prose poem in the 21st century.
4.45pm Wine and Chat, and Book Buying
5.30pm – Finish
Biographical notes on keynote speakers:
(We will provide biographies for each of the panel members on the day)
Cassandra Atherton is a prose poet and Associate Professor in Writing and Literature. She was a Harvard Visiting Scholar in English and a Visiting Fellow at Sophia University, Tokyo. She has published 17 critical and creative books and been invited to edit special editions of leading journals. Cassandra is the successful recipient of many national and international grants including a VicArts grant and an Australian Council Grant. Her most recent books of prose poetry are Pre-Raphaelite (2018) and Pika-don (2018). She is the current poetry editor of Westerly magazine and is co-writing a scholarly book, Prose Poetry: An Introduction with Paul Hetherington (Princeton UP). She is also co-editing The Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry (Melbourne UP).
Paul Hetherington has published and/or edited 27 books, including 13 full-length poetry collections and nine chapbooks. Among these are Moonlight on Oleander: Prose Poems (UWAP, 2018) and Palace of Memory (RWP, 2019). He won the 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards (poetry) and undertook an Australia Council for the Arts Literature Board Residency at the BR Whiting Studio in Rome in 2015-16. He was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize in the 2017 New South Wales Premier’s Awards and commended in the Surprise Encounters: Headstuff Poetry Competition 2018 (Ireland). He is Professor of Writing in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra, head of the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI), and one of the founding editors of the international online journal Axon: Creative Explorations. He founded the International Prose Poetry Group in 2014.
Prose Poetry by the Sea (for young writers 18-25)
Start date: 27 Jul 2018
This was an opportunity to spend the weekend writing prose poetry with writers Anne Caldwell and Beverley Ward. The weekend included 3 workshops with some free time to explore and socialise with other writers. Accommodation was mostly catered and free of charge thanks to funding from Arts Council England. Participants were required to pay their own travel and Saturday lunch.
Facebook Event: click here.