reading revival: a poetry book blog

reading revival is devoted to promoting australian poetry books and related discussion through reading one book - firstly, duty by geraldine mckenzie. i will choose a new book roughly every 3 months

Thursday, May 25, 2006

its my impression prose poems had something of a heyday in the 80s - particularly in womens/feminist/lesbian writing - ania walwicz, anna couani, joanne burns are some of the names .. theres been a quiet resurgence in the last few years but i havent seen anything written about it - if anyone else has let me know - theres noone i think known as a or the prose poet in australia but many have included prose in their poetic repertoire eg kate fagan, laurie duggan, john tranter, robert gray, jill jones, cassie lewis, judith bishop, martin harrison, chris wallace-crabbe, kevin hart: quite a various list in terms of poetics.

mckenzie uses prose in a number of poems (eg after ritsos p18-24, iconoclasty p81-83, "text/book/work..." p72-5,this doesnt have a name p84-5 & "it could be a forest..." p49). in writing about prose poetry the convention is to talk about the prose poem as a form somewhere between a poem & a story. whats more interesting to me is the ground between the poem & the prose poem.

"text/book/work", which has a subtitle(?) of Using the Rules is structured as a series of 8 headings (surtitles?) in prose (descriptions of praying mantis coupling). beneath each heading is a list of fragments/phrases which relate more or less to the heading - if only because theyre there. theres a sense of a larger (?) story in the fragments. but this is mere reading. the headings control what could be read as anguish in the phrases. "t/b/w" could be an agonised poetics, the mating of the mantis as allegory for the muse & poet. the death radio (to bring in spicer). "t/b/w" functions similarly to the 2 parts of adenfrorde - the prose section (p11) of varying derivations, & afenfrorde - fragments (p12-17) - portraits of rational vs poetic mind (tho adenfrorde the prose could be seen as parodying the etymological).

after ritsos could be a 'text/book/work' itself: ie mckenzie could be writing with ritsos in hand. the 90 lines of images in one, two or three sentences function paratactically, are not subordinate to one another. they are not building towards anything - anti-rhetorical - there is no fantasy of time progressing but the poem is 'ever-renewed' (fredman). the lines rely on the title & their allusive value to cohere. each sentence relates back to the title (the images are mainly one sentence, those with more than one do relate to each other - but not the preceding or following image). after ritsos: the poem as a list of responses, they could be stimulated by mckenzies memories or sense of ritsos, or more closely - textually - linked to actual poems or lines in ritsos. or not; after ritsos could be an analogy; it could be read literally in a different way; this poem this way of writing poetry is possible, possibly necessary after ritsos.

for more on parataxis see 'poets prose: the crisis in american verse' stephen fredman, its around secondhand & probably in some uni libraries. it is a thorough account of the american prose poem in the 20th century from stein through williams, ashbery, creeley to antin, bromige, silliman and others. also see ron silliman's essay 'the new sentence' in his book 'the new sentence' and steins lecture 'poetry & grammar' in 'look at me now & here i am', & her 'how to write'.


At 7:42 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

from pam b

Hi Michael,
You could include David Brooks and myself
in your prose poetics list. (It's not imperative tho)
In 1987 Anna Couani's Sea Cruise Books published my
collection 'Keep It Quiet' - 26 poetic prose pieces
and an 'experimental' list poem 'Comprate del Vino'
comprised of impressions of twelve Italian
cities/towns, arranged in columns.
Also - 'Correspondences' - imaginary (love/hate)
letters - all poetic prose - (tho they don't all stand
the test of time I'm afraid) from Tom Thompson's 'Red
Press' in 1977.
I haven't included these prose pieces in my books of
Selected Poems because they seem so different from my
poetry writing. (Well, I have included a couple of the
letters in my first selected but the rest are in the
archival cupboard and will probably remain there for
the duration)

I'm enjoying following the thread - Kris Hemensley's
'nineties letter is interesting.


At 6:35 PM, Blogger PB said...

further to that - Susan Hampton, Barbara Brooks - two more women poets who took to prose in the 80s. And then I suppose Kathleen Fallon - a poet in prose. Lending a gambit to writers like Jan McKemmish, Marion Campbell, Anna Gibbs etc etc
I think Kristeva and Cixous may had had some influence. Anyway it's an entirely different topic. Back to 'Duty'...

At 6:01 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

its interesting to think of the route prose poetry has taken in australia. theres a french connection both here & in america .. but there stein & williams are i think the two key precursors (ashbery, s howe & hejinian important later). here i think that it takes off later, & there is a strong french feminist connection. though stein was important to me, so was monique wittig's 'les guerilleres'. (& 'ulysses' / 'finnegans wake' & 'naked lunch') in mckenzies case? i dont know - probably rimbaud; (hard to gauge the effect of european poetry translated into prose). perhaps the prose of breton &/or aragon, and also language writers i think. possibly bruce andrews? the influence of prose fiction on poetry seems to be a rarely mentioned topic. maybe im missing/forgetting something. but i think theres a critical tendency to keep the genres separate. (hence the attraction of poetry in prose.)


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