Louis Jenkins, in Magma, talks about the prose poem – what he aims at when writing one, how trends have changed over the years, and how the prose poem relates to more formal poetries.
I thought this bit was great, especially the hayseed got up in the tuxedo and the “even though there may be no real poetry happening” –
It seems to me that most free verse has a kind of formal quality, even though it may be written in the most prosaic language, relate the most prosaic experience, and lack any insight. It’s like some hayseed got up in a tuxedo. This is due primarily to line-breaks. They give the thing the look of a poem even though there may be no real poetry happening. I thought why not just write it out in prose and see if this ‘experience’ has any poetry about it? I know some poets will argue about ‘the music’ etc, etc… That doesn’t interest me. I think that whatever it is that makes a poem work, that sort of mysterious moment of recognition (Robert Frost called the poem “a momentary stay against confusion”), can happen in a prose poem as easily as in any other kind of poem.
I like the music of poetry and get frustrated when I read poems without any, of the kind he describes. But writing it out in prose seems more honest. If it’s prose, why not make it look like prose? If the layout of a piece leads me to expect prose, I might enjoy its prose, rather than keep wondering why it’s been written in lines.