Wednesday, April 02, 2003


MAN, if I hear one more person say "prose poem" I will ask G.W. to go to war with them. Ok, maybe I am being a bit severe, but I would like to point out the idiocy of this statement, once and for all.

This from the encarta online dictionary:

prose [ prz ]
noun (plural pros·es)

1. language that is not poetry: writing or speech in its normal continuous form, without the rhythmic or visual line structure of poetry

2. ordinary style of expression: writing or speech that is ordinary or matter-of-fact, without embellishment

3. christianity See sequence n.6

verb (past prosed, past participle prosed, present participle pros·ing, 3rd person present singular pros·es)

1. transitive and intransitive verb write in prose: to write something in prose, as opposed to poetry

language that is not poetry

2. transitive verb rewrite as prose: to turn poetry into prose

3. intransitive verb speak or write prosaically: to speak or write in an ordinary, matter-of-fact, or unimaginative style

[13th century. Via Old French from Latin prosa (oratio) straightforward (discourse) from, ultimately, provertere to turn forward, from vertere (see verse1).]

See that first one "langauge that is not poetry". I am not making this up people, go see for yourself. Prose poetry, then, would be poetry that is not poetry. Which, I guess, is what I have been saying all along, as in "I don't know what this is, but I know what it's not, and that is poetry". Of course, everyone thought I was just being harsh. Really, it is not poetry.

Yet still I hear educated students, even faculty, proclaim the wonders of "Prose Poetry". Ughh.

I think I may have found the confusion. See, you can have prose that is like poetry. It is listed fourth here:

po·et·ry [ ptree ]

1. literature literature in verse: literary work written in verse, in particular verse writing of high quality, great beauty, emotional sincerity or intensity, or profound insight

2. literature poems collectively: all the poems written by a particular poet, in a particular language or form, or on a particular subject a collection of love poetry

3. literature writing of poems: the art or skill of writing poems

4. literature prose like poetry: writing in prose that has a poetic quality

5. beauty or grace: something that resembles poetry in its beauty, rhythmic grace, or imaginative, elevated, or decorative style

6. poetic quality: a poetic or particularly beautiful or graceful quality in something

[14th century. Via Old French from, ultimately, Latin poeta (see poet).]

Of course, it is commonly thought that if you can have something, you can also have the opposite of it. This just isn't the case here. The very definition of the words prohibits such a thought. Still, I am assaulted daily with this new vein of writing. And it is killing off would-be genius, fashioning itself for the lazy. It has become a catch-all phrase for anyone who thinks they have something to say, says it, and calls it poetry.

I will, of course, stay the course, fighting the good fight against this literary invasion of lunacy. Stay tuned, avid readers, for the results.

~ "I gave up on new poetry myself thirty years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world."
-Russell Baker

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