Prose Poems: A Question and An Answer #poetry #MondayBlogs

For my online poetry class last week, we discussed the “prose poem.”  Now I remember from (way) back in the day when I was intrigued by prose poems because they seemed less intimidating than the usual poetry forms.  Prose poems seemed more like writing flash fiction or flash nonfiction.  Something I could do without having to worry about meter and foots and stuff like that. 

One of the discussion forums presented three examples of prose poetry as a “slippery bean”: too far one way and it becomes flash fiction; too far the other way and it may become a lyrical essay.  Then the question: “Is the prose poem’s proximity to other genres the danger of the prose poem or the benefit of it?”

Those who know me well know that I don’t care for how (any) writing is categorized.  Read on for the three examples and for my response.  Finally, if you’re still with me, read to the end for my own “prose poem.”


Prose poem by Charles Simic:

I ran into the poet Mark Strand on the street. He immediately challenged me by drinking a glass of wine while standing on his head. I was astonished. He didn’t even spill a drop. It was one of the bottles Baudelaire stole from his stepfather the Ambassador in 1848. “Is this what is known as subjective reality?” I asked. Years ago this same Strand translated a famous Quechua poem about a man raising a fly with wings of gold in a green bottle, and now look at him!

An excerpt from a piece of flash fiction, “Continuity of the Parks,” by Julio Cortázar:

He had begun to read the novel a few days before. He had put it aside because of some urgent business conferences, opened it again on his way back to the estate by train; he permitted himself a slowly growing interest in the plot, in the characterizations. That afternoon, after writing a letter giving his power of attorney and discussing a matter of joint ownership with the manager of his estate, he returned to the book in the tranquility of his study which looked out upon the park with its oaks. Sprawled in his favorite armchair, its back toward the door–even the possibility of an intrusion would have irritated him, had he thought of it–he let his left hand caress repeatedly the green velvet upholstery and set to reading the final chapters. He remembered effortlessly the names and his mental image of the characters; the novel spread its glamour over him almost at once. He tasted the almost perverse pleasure of disengaging himself line by line from the things around him, and at the same time feeling his head rest comfortably on the green velvet of the chair with its high back, sensing that the cigarettes rested within reach of his hand, that beyond the great windows the air of afternoon danced under the oak trees in the park. Word by word, licked up the sordid dilemma of the hero and heroine, letting himself be absorbed to the point where the images settled down and took on color and movement, he was witness to the final encounter in the mountain cabin.

A lyric essay (section of a book-length one) by Maggie Nelson from Bluets:

Some things do change, however. A membrane can simply rip off your life, like a skin of congealed paint torn off the top of a can. I remember that day very clearly: I had received a phone call. A friend had been in an accident. Perhaps she would not live. She had very little face, and her spine was broken in two places. She had not yet moved; the doctor described her as “a pebble in water.” I walked around Brooklyn and noticed that the faded periwinkle of the abandoned Mobil gas station on the corner was suddenly blooming. In the baby-shit yellow showers at my gym, where snow sometimes fluttered in through the cracked gated windows, I noticed that the yellow paint was peeling in spots, and a decent, industrial blue was trying to creep in. At the bottom of the swimming pool, I watched the white winter light spangle the cloudy blue and I knew together they made God. When I walked into my friend’s hospital room, her eyes were a piercing, pale blue and the only part of her body that could move. I was scared. So was she. The blue was beating.

My response:

I’m reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver which is a long read not just because it’s a long book, but there so much poetry in the language of the narrative.  I don’t like “pigeon-holing” writing:  this is a poem, this is an essay, this is flash fiction.  I think prose poetry’s proximity to fiction (or nonfiction) enhances the read, at least for me.  Must it be one or the other?  If each of the three pieces Mary shared “works,” does the genre matter?  I’m not trying to argue.  It’s the lowest common denominator effect of classification that troubles me.  I work with data at my day job, and see daily the loss of information (poetry?) when we produce aggregated results, that data that speaks only to the largest groupings of people; for example, Hispanic, Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black.  It’s a necessity in my line of work (public health), but it doesn’t help the people who don’t fit neatly into those categories.

My prose poem (submitted assignment):

I felt the staccato snap of each vertebrae in my spine as I lengthened and then twisted my torso in Trikonasana, Triangle Pose, and wondered how much longer I could keep looking up at the ceiling before I lost all feeling in my neck.  The yogi urges me to take two more waves of breath and then release—slowly—back up to Virabhadrasana II, Warrior Two.  Pause.  Then I am exhorted to drop my right arm down and behind, grazing my hand against the back of my left thigh, and lift my left arm, shining my heart to the ceiling for Reverse, or Proud, Warrior.  I inhale, then exhale, then inhale and slowly straighten my left leg for Stargazer, my favorite pose because it reminds of you.  I imagine us both reaching for the stars, me metaphorically and you literally with your fancy camera and telescope.  The shutter of your camera snaps in time with my spine.

The Plan, From Someone Who Hates Planning

I hate planning because, more often than not, my plans get upended by unforeseen circumstances.  For example, …

I plan to finish a painfully detailed and tedious project at work by week’s end only to find an error in my SQL query which means I will have to fix said error and then redo several days’ worth of work. To add insult to injury, I crash our server in my effort to fix said error and then have to wait until the next day before I resume my work on the project.  As of this post, I am still behind on that project.


I Really Should Be Writing, But …

“But a good writing day ought to be simply any day you worked. … The hell with all that anxiety about what may or may not come when you do work. Quit expecting it to dance for you. It’s not about you, finally. It’s about itself.”  Richard Bausch, The Writer’s Chronicle, March/April 2014, p. 20 (more…)

False Alarm and a Thousand Mea Culpas

Yesterday (Wednesday, July 16, 2014, to be exact and to be ever etched on my mind), I made a mistake.  And not just one mistake.  Actually, I made several.  And all of them in public.  Vis a vis my blog.

Mistake #1:  Multitasking.  I’ve never ever been good at multitasking.  In fact, I hate multitasking (my hatred of it in direct proportion to the current societal expectations that I will engage in it).  Yet, at work I do it all the time.  If I’m looking up, say, ICD-9 diagnosis codes on the internet, well, hell, I’ll just pop over to my personal email account for a quick look.

Mistake #2:  Checking my personal email at work, regardless of device.  At best, checking my email will distract me even more than I already am because I might find a message from a friend and so respond, and in the process of responding forget about the task I was supposed to be working on.  At worst, all I see is “junk” email and I get depressed.

Mistake #3:  Not paying attention (due to multitasking) to which email account I was logging into.  I was in the middle of writing a SQL query when a thought about my blog popped into my head and so, of course, I decided to take a quick look at my email.  Apparently, I logged into my email account with my blog name, forgetting that I actually have an email account with my blog name.  One that I have not checked in over a year.  Do you see where I am going with this?

Mistake #4:  Having a meltdown.  I can choose whether or not to have a meltdown.  It doesn’t always feel like I can choose, but I can.  When I saw the strange organization of my email account, lists of subscription emails that I thought I had turned off months ago, nothing in my Trash folder and everything on my Primary tab and Gmail acting like it’s a brand-new day in email management … I yielded to the usual anger and angst that I experience whenever I think technology is failing me.  Hence, the meltdown.

Mistake #5:  Making my meltdown public.  As I wrote in yesterday’s blog post (thank god I used my WP app on my iPad so I kept it (relatively) short), a little voice in the back of my head warned, “Don’t publish.  Don’t publish.”  I’ve written blog posts before that I’ve left in draft and either published much later or just deleted.  I could have done the same here.  I should have done the same.

If you’ve gotten this far, then you understand that my primary Gmail account (marieannbailey) is really okay.  Yes, it has those annoying tabs that really don’t help me in organizing (especially since sometimes Gmail forgets which tab a message should go to), but I had adapted.  And that change was a year ago.  What I saw yesterday was a different email account that I had forgotten about and so it was not yet organized.

When people started to comment on my blog and nobody complained of having the exact same problem, that’s when I slowly started to realize that I might have made a effing ass of myself.  Well, we should learn from our mistakes, right?  I thought about deleting yesterday’s post and just saying, “What?  Who me?  Meltdown in public?  Never!”  But if I could erase every mistake I’ve ever made, I’d never learn anything.

There is an upside to all this.  I’ve found a few things to be thankful for.  I have a friend who makes a point of being thankful for something, even when her day totally sucks.  You should check out her blog.  She’s a good example of how to find the positive in a world of negatives.

So, taking a cue from Pamela, here’s what I’m thankful for after making an effing ass of myself in public:

  • Yoga:  Wednesday night is Flow and Meditation class.  45 minutes of vigorous flow followed by 30 minutes of meditation.  I started class feeling angry with myself and ended with acceptance of myself.
  • Gmail:  I still don’t care for their email management, but at least it wasn’t Gmail that messed up, it was me.
  • My online friends:  I am most thankful for the wonderful friends I have here, and all of you who rallied support, offering me suggestions and/or empathy.  Because of you, I have some ideas for how to improve my email management.  I also suspect that you all are more forgiving of me than I am of myself.

So, false alarm.  Gmail is not challenging my sanity.  I’m perfectly capable of doing that to myself without any technological assistance.

Cheers and TGI(almost)F!

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

One of the fun things my husband and I did while off-the-grid was a bike ride on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Bike Trail.  My husband is a long-time bicyclist and a proud owner of a 1974 Carleton Raleigh International.  He’s been carrying this baby around with him since 1975.  Some restoration was called for at times, but it’s close to its original condition.  Out of his three bikes, it’s still the one he enjoys the most.

And, hey, Andra Watkins, bring MTM on over so he can see my husband’s bike, too!

1974 Carleton Raleigh International

1974 Carleton Raleigh International

1974 Carleton Raleigh International (2)

1974 Carleton Raleigh International (3)

1974 Carleton Raleigh International (5)

1974 Carleton Raleigh International (4)

I have a fat, heavy Raleigh hybrid that suffices to get me from a trail head and back.  Locally, we ride the St. Marks Bike Trail, about 32 miles round-trip from the trail head to the Riverside Cafe in St. Marks where you can get a tasty Grouper sandwich.  It’s a fun ride when we have all day, but if we ride after work, we do a 15-mile loop.

Before our recent hiatus, I hadn’t ridden my bike in almost 4 years.  I never felt very comfortable with my bike (even I have to laugh at my efforts to brake and get off my bike without giving myself a wedgie).  I always felt self-conscious riding with my husband because he has thighs of steel and likes to ride hard and fast.  I’d either feel bad because I felt I was holding him back, or pissed off because he would leave me behind in the (literal) dust, even though I would have told him he could.  But on this trip, all that melted away.  I’m still klutzy but I’m not as bad getting on and off as I used to be (and I attribute that to years of yoga practice).  And I’m not self-conscious about riding with my husband.  He can ride how he wants.  I have my inner groove and I’m happy.

I don’t know why/how this change occurred, but there it is.

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The 10,000 Word Mark


(photo from; Sphinx pose)

“Take a deep breath, stretch, and sigh it all out!” I love hearing these words from my yoga teacher near the end of our yoga practice. My body by then–after a series of vinyasas, sun salutations, and (failed) attempts at crow pose, to name a few–is warm, loose, and calm. Much like my head feels now after reaching 10,000 words in my novel for Camp NaNoWriMo 😉

Of course, I’ve lost some ground and my new expected end date at this pace is May 30. But tomorrow (Saturday) is the Camp NaNoWriMo marathon and I plan to participate. In fact, I’ll be writing tonight since my husband will be out so maybe I can bump up my projections and get myself a better footing for finishing on time.

In the meantime, I’m counting my blessings for slow-running SQL queries. As millions of data records are being recoded, categorized, and/or linked, I can take the dead time to write a chapter or two on my iPad. Life is good.

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