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TSE  August 2013

TSE August 2013

Subject:

Re: prose poetry--new topic

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Tue, 13 Aug 2013 18:11:14 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (233 lines)

You are probably right. I share with most literary scholars an urge to
classify -- an urge constantly undermined by an equal urge to justify the
classifying theoretically. Line cuts (and WCW is certainly the classical
instance here) do distinguish a pretty large body of texts from another
large body of texts. But the exception of "prose poems" sadly diminishes the
elegance of the distinction.

Letting my fingers think here. The _label_ "prose poem" violates harshly
what one might call the "ordinary" (non-technical) sense of the two words:
it''s an oxymoron. Now, do all prose poems somehow or other let it be known
that they are prose poems, not asomd prose note? If they appear in _Poetry_
magazine, the reference is made and the reader thinks, "Prose Poem." If they
appear in a volume entitled Selected (or Collected) Poems of X, the phrase
is elicited. But if we were to find a typed paper blowing down the street,
with one paragraph on it we would not spontaneously say "Ah! A prose poem."
(And I have read scholarly books with a ragged right margin -- probably not
relevant.) SO: Is it essential to a Prose Poem to announce itself, somehow,
as such -- i.e., must all such poems deliberately violate the reader's sense
of the words "prose" and "poem," yoking them by violence. Prose Poems have
to be labeled as such; otherwise they are fragments of prose. The reader
must think as she reads, "This prose is not prose," or something like that.
If they were not implicitly labeled as Prose Poems, would one of Eliot's
prose poems appear, rather, to be a fragment from a personal letter?

Now, another peculiarity of that sentence from Austen is that the main
clause is about the reader him/herself: that is, if the acknowledgment is
"universal" then the reader must be included among those who acknowledge the
truth of the subordinate clause. And since there must be at least a few
readers who don't so acknowledge that the sentence in fact refutes itself.
And a self-refuting sentence has a completeness of its own -- a completeness
not undermined by the fact that its meaning changes as we read the inal
chapters, in which Darcy admits that he can only, real, in which Darcy
admits that he can only, really, _be_ Darcy as the husband of Elikzabeth. To
be himself, he had to be completed: he was indeed in want of a wife, a
particular one. But the sentence itself does not need that development to
have some real independence. Suppose I were to give it a title and publish
it as my own poem: would that make it a prose poem by Carrol Cox?

Incidentally, "literature" itself cannot actually be theorized, since we
can't, really, distinguish literature from non-literature. I guess we can,
however, theorize that non-theorizable quality. Perhaps.

Carrol

> -----Original Message-----
> From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
> Behalf Of Nancy Gish
> Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 1:34 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: prose poetry--new topic
>
> Dear Carrol,
>
> I think the presence of line cuts rather than margin-to-margin lines is a
key
> difference for any poetry other than "prose poetry," and it is a
technical, not
> a value distinction. But it does alter reading--even silently. Austen's
is, as you
> say, a "perfect" cadence, and one can find other writers who have
> comparable control of cadence. But one is forced by line cuts to alter
one's
> pauses and breaths when speaking or reading--hence the necessity, if
acting
> Shakespeare, for example, to mark up the script for pauses and to retain
the
> iambic pentameter without sounding like doggerel. Meter shifts emphasis,
> and line endings not only do that as well, they can shift the apparent
relation
> of words and modifiers, for example.
>
> So I don't agree that this is absurd at all. It is "prose poetry" that
creates a
> difficult problem. A good test is to try to read WCW as if it were prose:
it
> simply does not work. One has to recognize the very slight pause at a line
cut.
> Denise Levertov called the end of a line "half a comma"; that is a bit
amusing
> and odd but not totally false. But I love the term of a director I've
worked
> with who says that at the end of a line of Shakespeare one is "poised" for
a
> second. One only just reads over if it is enjambed. There is a real
distinction
> between endstopped and enjambed lines, and it is not the same in prose,
> where periods and commas, semi-colons and colons (in contemporary
> codified English--not in Early Modern) do define pauses and lengths.
>
> And, I at least, never said anything about relative value, nor do I recall
> anyone else talking about "better." It's different. There is far more
"cadence"
> and rhythm in Austen or many others than in a lot of what gets called
> "poetry" but is just dull self-absorbed observation cut into arbitrary
lines.
> "Free verse," if it is any good, is not "free": it takes real skill to
cut in ways
> that work. Look at the amazing opening of TWL, for example, with the
> endings on participles, and then the shift to what seems more direct.
> Cheers,
> Nancy
>
> >>> Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> 08/13/13 1:22 PM >>>
> An observation. It is almost impossible in any effort to distinguish prose
&
> verse not to let (obviously false) "value" judgments to creep in. I say
> obviously false because the sentence from Austen quoted below is obviously
> as 'perfect' a cadence as is to be found in English. A debate over whether
> it or some other passage (prose or verse) is "better" would be
unimaginably
> absurd. "A just precedence in the grave." Play around with that and
> Austen's sentence. :-)
>
> Carrol
>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
> > Behalf Of Nancy Gish
> > Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 9:29 AM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: prose poetry--new topic
> >
> > A good example of the problem. And all the definitions I've seen point
to
> the
> > rhythm of prose poetry as one reason it is still poetry. I think also
that
> Carroll
> > is only partly right: it is difficult to say that some prose lacks all
the
> other
> > qualities of poems, but there is, I think, no problem calling poems
poetry
> > because they are cut in lines. It is the one consistent difference. Even
> the bad
> > writing below (Eliot's rare lapse, since he had an astonishing ear for
> rhythm)
> > is cut in lines. Line cuts, of course, do not mean it is good poetry,
only
> that it
> > is not prose, because the cuts force key differences in any reading.
WCW,
> for
> > example, was brilliant at using cuts, but a lot of bad contemporary
verse
> is
> > just that. It is not prose, however, even if it is prosaic.
> >
> > The difficulty is in the category of lines from margin to margin that
are
> called
> > prose poems. But one could easily take many passages from Joyce (I keep
> > using him because his writing is so musical) and set them off as poems.
> >
> > Hugh MacDiarmid said the same thing as Carroll in later life, but his
late
> > "prosaic" kinds of poems still have line cuts.
> >
> > Some Joyce:
> >
> > Snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the
> dark
> > central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly on the Bog of
Allen,
> and,
> > farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.
It
> > was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill
> where
> > Michael Furey lay buried.
> >
> > And try line cuts:
> >
> > Snow was general all over Ireland.
> > It was falling on every part
> > of the dark central plain, on
> > the treeless hills, falling softly
> > on the Bog of Allen,
> > and farther westward softly falling
> > into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.
> > It was falling, too, upon every part
> > of the lonely churchyard on the hill
> > where Michael Furey
> > lay buried.
> >
> >
> > Nancy
> >
> >
> >
> > >>> Peter Dillane <[log in to unmask]> 08/13/13 3:20 AM >>>
> > Hi Peter
> >
> > But seriously :
> >
> > "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession
> of
> > a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
> >
> > ticks the box for rhythm
> >
> > whereas apart from the mention of rhythm there isnt so much in:
> >
> > To whom I owe the leaping delight
> > That quickens my senses in our wakingtime
> > And the rhythm that governs the repose of our sleepingtime,
> > the breathing in unison.
> >
> > cheers Pete
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "P" <[log in to unmask]>
> > To: <[log in to unmask]>
> > Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 4:41 PM
> > Subject: Re: prose poetry--new topic
> >
> >
> > > Rythmn is a key difference.
> > >
> > > Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > >
> > >>The distinction between "prose" and "poetry" cannot be justified
> > >>theoretically: it is simply impossible to establish any criteria that
> will
> > >>"do the job."
> > >>
> > >>But if an author _calls_ a text a "prose poem" the reader responds
> > >>differently, uses different hermeneutic procedures, in construing it.
> > >>
> > >>Is "found poetry" still around?
> > >>
> > >>Carrol
> > >

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