I have two prose poems in the latest issue of Tears in the Fence, a British print magazine. Here’s one of the poems.
Across the valley
The long opening shot is of a painting. A woman stands on a patio, looking across a garden at the lights in the valley below, lights just visible through the mist. She has her back towards us, her shoulders covered by a pale green shawl, inviting us into the illusory space of the picture, urging us to see what she sees. The scene has been painted in photographic detail. The frame widens, the camera panning to the right. The painting, we discover, hangs opposite a pair of French windows which open onto a patio, from where, through the skeins of mist, lights are visible in the valley below. A breeze blows in at the window, bringing with it the hum of distant traffic. Through the windows we can see a woman standing in the garden, draped in a lime green shawl, her back towards us. ‘Where are you?’ a voice says, a woman’s voice. (The actor who plays the woman also lives in a house overlooking a valley, where later we glimpse her face for the first time reflected in a mirror.) The camera advances toward the open French windows. The woman seems unaware of the camera’s presence, of the voice. The valley below is shrouded in mist.
Part of the motivation for this piece came from looking at the work of the German artist Gerhard Richter, and in particular his fascination with mirrors, reflections, and issues of representation. There is an excellent 30 min documentary on Richter here.
I have three new prose poems just published on Stride. Here’s a little background on one of them. I wrote ‘Objet d’art’ in Paris last year when the huge Basquiat exhibition was on at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. There were long queues to get into the show, and as often happens with wildly popular exhibitions I found myself wondering what all those people were doing there. Why were they patiently lining up, and what did they expect to see? I don’t mention Basquiat directly in the poem, but there’s a hidden homage to him in this imagined piece of ‘participatory art’. There’s an excellent documentary on Basquiat here.
I have just had a review of British Prose Poetry, edited by Jane Monson, published in Fortnightly Review . While poetry in prose now appears to be flourishing in Britain (after decades of hostility from the literary establishment), the form has to date received limited scholarly attention. This volume of essays is seeking to address the gap in the academic literature.
Monson has assembled an excellent team of contributors and the book includes many interesting articles. The approach though is heavily weighted to historical figures in the literary ‘cannon’, perhaps because that’s what the publisher Palgrave Macmillan required. There’s a whole ‘counter-cultural’ tradition of prose poetry in Britain which is referred to in the book, but which receives much less discussion.
Monson claims the book addresses the question why the prose poem is much more widespread and accepted in Britain today, but I think it fails in this. Take a look at the recently published Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod . It’s a great selection of poems, but many of the British contributors don’t even receive a passing mention in British Prose Poetry. Read my review to learn more.