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Some prose poem-ness. About guns.

My prose poem debut in Waccamaw this month: “We Were Talking About Guns”.  I’ve written several of these in the last year and it’s been a bit of a surprise — a long way, formally, from the sonnet sequence that appeared in The Highwayman’s Wife .  But lately,  the subjects I’ve been trying to address — and the polyvocal nature of the conversation about those subjects — has increasingly found me frustrated by conventional notions of the line and its integrity, particularly the left-justified line.  I’m hardly the first poet to feel this way; I particularly like Cecilia Woloch’s use of the prose poem as “Postcards to….” in her book Carpathia (and here’s a nice review of that book in Rattle ).  In both of the new manuscripts I’m drafting — one about our nervous culture, the other about both the pioneer history of and my own history in Kentucky — there’s a lot of composition on the page, some right-justification, and some prose poetry, or non-lineated verse, a term I also like but feels a little poet-geeky.

My thinking about it all still feels more squishy than I’d like; I’m giving a lecture on it at the spring residency for Spalding’s MFA in early June so I intend to have a few things sorted out by then, notably:  meaningful distinctions between flash fiction and prose poems; intentionality in white space and indentation in the use of staggered lines; what, if anything, gestures toward the shaped poem might suggest (I tried out some of that in Kings of the Rock and Roll Hot Shop with a poem imitating the shape of glass as it becomes a vessel).   More prose poems are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review and Sou’wester this spring.  And maybe more after that.

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