Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Here are some prose poems which, if nothing else, subvert the narrative tendency in interesting ways. I neglected work by Tate, Edson, Hass and Ashbery, which I imagine we're mostly familiar with. Other work worth checking out which I didn't feel like typing are: Hejinian's My Life, Mary Ruefle's prose poems (scattered randomly throughout her books, though she told me she might put them together as one collection soon--something to look forward to!), Bernadette Mayers' work, O'Hara's "Meditations in an Emergency," and the wealth of great French prose poets, including especially (as far as I'm concerned) Jacob, Ponge, Reverdy, Char, Roubaud's Something Black (available in a decent English translation) and Micheaux's bizarre-ass narratives.

I've withheld comment on these, but please, let's do get into it!



A single climb to a line, a straight exchange to a cane, a desperate adventure and courage and a clock, all this which is a system, which has feeling, which has resignation and success, all makes an attractive black silver.

Stein, from Tender Buttons

Some fifteen years we'll say I served this friend, was his valet, nurse, physician, fool and master: nothing too menial, to say the least. Enough of that: so.
Stand aside while they pass. This is what they found in the rock when it was cracked open: this fingernail. Hide your face among the lower leaves, here's a meeting should have led to better things but--it is only one branch out of the forest and night pressing you for an answer! Velvet night weighing upon your eye-balls with gentle insistence; calling you away: Come with me, now, tonight! Come with me! now tonight...

WCW, from Kora in Hell


Short walk through fields to soft-drink stand where boats wait--all aboard! Creak of rope oarlock. One man pulls the sing oar, another poles, a third steers, a fourth stands by to relieve the firs. High-up shrine, bamboo glade. Woodland a cherry tree still in bloom punctuates like gun-smoke. Egret flying upstream, neck cocked. Entering the (very gentle) rapids everyone gasps with pleasure. The little waves break backwards, nostalgia con moto, a drop of fresh water thrills the cheek. And then? Woodland, bamboo glade, high-up shrine. Years of this have tanned and shriveled the boatmen. For after all, the truly exhilarating bits

were few, far between
--boulders goaded past, dumb beasts
mantled in glass-green

gush--and patently
led where but to the landing,
the bridge, the crowds. We

step ashore, in our clumsiness hoping not to spill these brief impressions.

James Merrill, from "Prose of Departures"


My Mickey Mouse ears are nothing like sonar. Colorado is far less rusty than Walt's lyric riddles. If sorrow is wintergreen, well then Walt's breakdancers are dunderheads. If hoecakes are Wonder Bras, blond Wonder Bras grow on Walt's hornytoad. I have seen roadkill damaged, riddled and wintergreen, but no such roadkill see I in Walt's checkbook. And in some purchases there is more deliberation than in the bargains that my Mickey Mouse redeems. I love to herd Walt's sheep, yet well I know that muskrats have far more platonic sonogram. I grant I never saw a googolplex groan. My Mickey Mouse, when Walt waddles, trips on garbanzos. And yet, by halogen-light, I think my loneliness as reckless as any souvenir bought with free coupons.

Harryette Mullen, from Sleeping with the Dictionary


It could be a bird that says summer, that says gather no late failing harvest in a wealth of arms. Lost weed, still you remember, in a storm-suit, the sky came down to walk among us, oh to talk. Such grey conviction, cracked calculus, chasm. Black earth repeating, I was never him, and so many green words of schism, that and this. If a tree could say, if a tree could say, what are you? to my dim attention, to my wayward random shape. Suit, suit, you're a cold suit, your stitched rain shivers and splinters, what web is this? Unnumbered mesh of other, kill, kiss.

Karen Volkman, from Spar


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