I have started rereading a book titled In The Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Handbook. I skipped over the first two chapters to forgo a tendency to redo things I have already done. I had read those chapters a long time ago.
This chapter is on writing prose poetry. Here is an example given:
Something must have been bugging my father the day I asked him for fifty cents in the upstairs kitchen, because although he was always a sweet and gentle man and gave me almost everything I asked for, this time he turns around from the sink where he is washing dishes and starts swinging at me front hand and backhand, again and again, his face contorted with a rage I have never saw before or again. I shriveled into the chair by the kitchen window sobbing and begging this stranger to stop. Eventually he does, and the silence of the rest of our lives swallows the moment forever.
I love some of the details in this prose poem. He is asking for fifty cents so I picture this time being not recent but perhaps thirty of forty years ago. They are both in the upstairs kitchen, which lets me know that they have two kitchens in their home and makes me wonder if they are an Italian family, who I have been told liked to traditionally have two kitchens, or maybe it is a multi-generational family and one kitchen is for grandma and grandpa.
I also like what the poet tells us. This was a one time incident that was not spoken of again. And that: Something must have been bugging my father that day... and this stranger...
Steve Kowitt the author of this book on writing poetry gives some helpful information about prose poetry:
* Prose poetry may be an easier place to start writing poetry. You just need to know how to write an effective paragraph. You do not need to wrestle with line placement, line breaks, and how the poem should sound.
* Do not overly concern yourself with whether you are writing prose or poetry. It will only tied you down. General, the lines of prose poetry run from margin to margin. Verse poetry does not where line breaks are not determined by the margins but by the poet's choice. And is what you are writing a short story or a poem? Again his advice is to not worry about it. But he does try to clarify. Short stories have a plot that stretches across a period of time. Prose poetry usually deals with one specific incident. But thinking about it too much will just get you confused, so just write.
* Use action and rich details to show your moment.
* Tell the reader what is going on up front. Don't surprise the reader at the end.
* He writes about what an epiphany is. It is when the reader, the character, or the narrator has a revelation, or it could be a combination of the three who realize something important. I like what he says about an epiphany's broader context: ... it implies that the world is momentarily beautified, made sacred or marvelous, seen with a sudden or enlarged vision (p.25)
I have not finished the chapter. It has specific poetry assignments to try. But he asks you to begin with simply practicing; noticing places, objects, and people, moments, and describe them. Write and rewrite he says. Try writing more than a few- or a lot- of prose poems.
Here is my first:
The dried yellow roses are behind me on a shelf. I have to turn to look at them. They stand upright, still with their leaves and most of their buds. One bud is missing. They sit in a green empty wine bottle. The occasion when it was opened is forgotten. The roses were a gift for Valentine's day, years past. Or maybe it was Mother's Day. I remember though that I took the time then (whenever that was) to hang them upside down for awhile to help their preservation. Their color has faded, their smell is long gone, but they are still intact. I still save flowers, but not all of them, and I don't take the time to hang them upside down anymore. I just empty the water and they stay in the vase they were placed in until new ones come along.
-J.N. Sinclair (a.k.a. morrow)