e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Prose Poems

9781784101688img01The current quarterly book from the Poetry Book Society is Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo. The poetry is varied and includes several prose poems, some quite long.

Prose poems aren’t my favourite type of literature, but I am enjoying these. The rich descriptions and some quirky viewpoints are refreshing.

Apparently prose poetry is a relatively recent genre. A Japanese form, haibun, was in vogue in the 17th century, but in the west it was over a hundred years later that poets started to use it in its full form.

Reading about the early prose poets reminded me of a ‘tale’, which I read years ago – Landor’s Cottage by Edgar Allan Poe.

Landor’s Cottage reads like the start of a story, but it doesn’t get to be one. Elegant and detailed description lead to no action; it comes to a halt as the author says:

It is not the purpose of this work to do more than give in detail, a picture of Mr. Landor’s residence – as I found it.

I think it comes close to modern prose poetry, in its intent and richness, but it misses by being definitely prose. Mr Poe, leader in several literary genres, lost an opportunity to be a major model for, what was in his time, a new poetic form.

Today the form is popular with a lot of poets, but Ms Capildeo is the first I’ve come across who makes me want to take my interest further.



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