Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Prose or poem?

Much of my writing seems to straddle the fine line of prose and poetry. I find readers often asking whether a piece is a prose poem or flash fiction. In my mind, the category is irrelevant, but that only holds up until I begin submitting my work and have to decide whether to send it to the fiction editor or the poetry editor.

I just finished reading Issue No. 3 of Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, and am wonderfully surprised by the variety of writing they include, as well as their attention to the debate over what constitutes prose versus poetry versus prose poetry. Many of the pieces in this issue are experimental. They push the boundaries of story and poem in new directions.

A small selection from this issue:

A Traveling Monk Observes
Charles Kesler
I have noticed in my travels that people do not put Kleenex out for guests. They do not even put out trash cans to put the Kleenex in that they do not put out. I have noticed in my travels that people do not put towels in their restrooms for their guests to wipe their hands on after they wash their hands. I have spent much time meditating on why this is so as I have waited for my hands to dry, usually in a dog paddling or bicycle tire pumping manner. I confess I sometimes discretely (sic) use their decorative towels to wipe my hands on, but I always feel guilty and end up rolling around on the floor asking the host to please forgive me. About half of the hosts do forgive me and the other half usually include the shell in the scrambled eggs they cook for me at breakfast. I crunch and smile and determine to mend my ways, but decorative towels loved this much make me want to puke on them, but I don't like to get sick so I'll just go on meditating while my hands dry. I have noticed in my travels that people do not put a lamp near enough to the guest bed if at all. Aha I see now. I do not need a Kleenex, a trash can, a hand towel, or a lamp because I am A Traveling Monk and I meditate, I meditate, I meditate, and I meditate in the dark.

Patricia Debney
Leaving the dusting and dishes, you go outside. Here, the pots need water, dead flowers beheading, stiffened sheets unpegging. And the plums all down the driveway writhe with flies and wasps, their frantic buzzing reaching you like music swelling. The sun bakes, turns everything to dust.

You want to wring your hands in the way you have seen your grandmother do many times. You want to see a child's neck bent over a buttercup, completely still. Or a bird take flight. You want something. Anything. You are waiting for it like waiting for a storm. You feel like crying.

The wind never rises. The light blinds. And going in, the darkness takes time to clear.


Becca said...

a very helpful post for me ... I like both selections very muhc but particularly Patricia Debney's ... thank you.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

I'm glad it was helpful, Becca. I really liked this journal - it was packed with poems and held my interest from beginning to end. Some lit journals are a chore to get through. This one was a joy.