Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Following the Prose Poem (…by Dennis L. Siluk, Poet)
I have in other articles wrote briefly on poetic prose, or the prose poem, as I see it, as I have also put my view in a recent book on both Lyric Poetry and Poet Prose, matter of fact, in two separate books. In this article let me express poetic prose, or the prose poem, in two of my poems, one: “The Meatpacker’s Boy,” (or, MPB), a long poem in the book “Days” and the poem: “Requiem for a Gang” (or, RG), in the book “The Drunk”.
What makes them poetic prose, or a prose poem, in my eyes, and in those of other poets eyes? Let’s start out with “Requiem for a Gang,” a poem of some 3000-words, long in comparison to some. You can get lost in this poem looking for the elements that make it what it is; the center of attraction is what? Perhaps we might say the good and the evil; the point, one can escape if s/he so desires, we are not fated to a certain inescapable certainty! Thus, Escape! Also let’s look at the insight in the poem: in man’s universe, he lives with no gravity, in other words, we all live or have our own amusements. What is the state of mind of the poet here? Perhaps we can say there is no head or tail, no beginning or end, life is experience and boredom can kill, evil is demonic and good is ideal. Experience your imagination if possible.
Now let’s shift to the second poem I do realize I put the ingredients out rapidly, and perhaps oversimplified, but I’ll try to straighten it out later: “The Meatpacker’s poem,” I believe more on the category of 3500-words. In comparison to Baudelaire or Robert Bly’s poetic prose, these two poems are quite runny, with long sentences—and have a confessional side to it. Hence, Poetic Prose, or the Prose Poem, is done in sentences. What Shakespeare could not do with rhyme and meter, he did with blank verse; in a similar manner, what the more up to date poet cannot do with fixed meter and rhyme, he does with poetic prose. The difference between MPB and RG, is this: the so called center of attraction we are seeking—if there is none, well, then the poem is something else—it is this in a nutshell: life is not so much carved out on fact, as experience and imagination. Insight, grab opportunity, you can change your habit and character.
It is not as easy as you think, it all doesn’t fall into one big lump, there are different mounds here, and there have been several masters of it. In other words, what I wrote in the two mentioned poems: its language is not as important as the story it carries, or brings out: and I already told you what it brings out. That is to say, what it illuminates. You might say, both poems illuminate two things in particular: escape from what you might see as an unwanted fate, or to be your destiny, and becoming more than what destiny had planned for you. In some poetry, we find imagery and fiery language that draws away from the story, we see much of this in George Sterling’s poetry, and Clark A. Smith’s, and other such poets, and we don’t want this to be the main goal here.
In the object poem in poetic prose, look for the object! And you’ll find the story, in both poems mentioned, the object is the “Poet” writing it, he escaped in both cases. In other words, in a snow storm, the object is the snow, and what is the storm doing? In the two poems what is the poet telling us, or doing, what is happening in the long run? He’s escaping from what? What he sees as fate. And in the MPB, he is grabbing opportunity. Perhaps a few more themes here. In both poems we see insight coming in layers in order to come close to the object, which is in the center of attraction. We see that both poems are nourished in the spirit of the man, the poet, he has given gravity to his universe, where there was no gravity. The point, he sees good for good and evil for evil, and does not judge, as to be able to jump over the hurdles already in place: he gives to Caser what belongs to Caser and to Christ, the same. What is the poet saying? If you want to know what war is like, go to war, experience your imagination. Thus, the poem is rendering to the poet’s mind, or translating the poet’s mind.
Why are we using the sentence and not the meter or line? The poetic lines in poetry are given more to incite; for excitement and emotion, but it takes away from the story, this we do not want. Thus, the mood is calmer with the sentence, the difference might be, in an analogy: sailing the waters in the Galapagos which are very calm if you have sailed them, versus the Drake Passage, which can be devastating, I have been in both areas. There is less abstraction in Poetic Prose in the Galapagos than the Drake, and it thus, sinks more into man’s minds, into his unconscious. I’m sure Pound would agree with this.
We may all think different on this, so let it be at that, this is the way I see things. I do hope it has been we are not compelled to stick with the so called ordained way of doing things or thinking the same as other poets think; English is in no way limited to the dictionary, or grammar professor who feels standard grammar is written in stone. It can be altered, as needed, William Faulkner is a good example of this language with new roots, an expert at it altercations. Or as George Sterling does with his poetry, altering it to blurred images lost in the cosmos. Or for that matter E.E. Cummings, whose poetry was written for his benefit, not the readers, as was Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’. Ezra Pound on the other hand, felt if something gets in the way of making a poem richer, get rid of it. Another example might be Jack Kerouac’s Haiku styles in which he changed the whole face of the poem style, completely to fit his ego. Feeling the Japanese’s style to cumbersome and confining. Robert Lowell brought the confessional poet into existence, perhaps up to his first printing of its chilling and unsettling autobiographical fragments. And then of course we see Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, taking his course of action, becoming even more frank and outspoken in poetic verse, and trying to fit whatever doesn’t fit into a mold that never existed before. And Poe’s deep decent into the abyss, and his followers such as Clark A. Smith, and Baudelaire, all worshiping the devil, on their decline into Hades. And then we step into the world of Allen Ginsberg’s perverted and clumsy cutouts: seemingly a more reporting style than prose narrative, less than poetry or poetic prose it should be called; and his musical perverted verse which is the devil playing Santa Claus, throwing his presents of muck down everyone’s chimney. And Robinson Jeffers, rich style of poetic structure, with his frozen anger.
Francis Ponge’s poetic prose, or prose poem, is imbedded into the rightness of the nutrient known as the mind—the imagination verses the language: the things; if we are looking at the two poems mentioned above, the things that are in the poem. Ponge looks at the spoken expressions, slang, thus he uses language to do flip-flops for him, to the point of absurdum. Seeking the unconscious phenomenology. He felt I do believe, like Pound felt I do believe resisting theories, or philosophic doctrine, methods, that a person’s most enduring work, and lasting, resists all formulas, even those he has stuck with forever. This, this makes each poem a decree unto itself. This I do believe is what “Requiem for a Gang,” and “The Meatpacker’s Boy?” is in essence, in its particular circumstances of conception: if we step into the poems called “The Galilean” we step into a saga of deep rooted Christianity, each poem linking to the overall others, and unless you add them all together, you never get the full picture, but is it Poet Prose or not? Yes it is and isn’t. It is because the center of attraction is of two dimensions: Christ and Salvation. No matter which way you look, this comes to light. On the other hand, Robert Frost might call it: a huge near blank verse epic like that of one of the crusades, or free verse epic unwitherable unless you read the whole gamut of poems, all 116. Whatever the poems may be called, they are in essence: long journey poems.
Ponge’s poems, like Jeffers long journey poems, were made at the human condition of their times: times that penetrated both Ponge, and Jeffers minds. Like Poe’s Eureka. As we can see with many of these poets, they reinvent language, as do some authors, in their novels; again I pinpoint: James Joyce, and Faulkner. What we see in the two poems we are looking at in the first paragraphs that Ponge brings out in a prose poem could be spontaneous thinking, which might cover the nutrient of the mind, absurdum.
In concluding this overview on Poetic Prose, let me say in passing, Karl Shapiro, whom I’ve read a number of his books, have also a number of his books, uses the long narration poem, the prose poem to his advantage, and we can again go to Allen Ginsberg, if indeed you like poetry cooked raw in the prose poem, or Robert Lowell’s confessional style along with his disciples: Plath and Ann Sexton, whom perhaps incorporates their manic depressive states, AS DOES Lowell, to dig out of their minds, with all respect intended, their sorrows and grief’s and bellyaching, which evidently there is a throwaway for, and since conversation is light on these subjects, confessional long poetry is not; and of course we have Baudelaire: poets with a lot of hostility to get out of their systems, with idiosyncratic translations; one imitating the other to a certain degree. But we have a sick world out there, and these poets are reacting to that need with their sickness so there is a need for it: unrhymed blank verse, or rhymed, or free verse, whatever; or metered like the Sonnets or Haiku, they hear the calling, and they got the materials already inside of them. They give no hope, behind their poetry, only describe the immediate instant of pain they absorbed, memories, dreams and a tine of knowledge. This last paragraph is not primarily an insult on that kind of poetry, but rather genre out there available, and since people do not talk openly of it, they get it in poetry, like a one-act play.