Monday, December 19, 2011

Prose Poetry and Flash Fiction

This past semester, I had a lovely class from poet/novelist Marilyn Chin.  It's the first class in my MFA program from a woman, and she reveled in being a woman!  I really enjoyed the massive reading list, which she told us was partly for our future reference.  It's fine with me that we couldn't really define what's a prose poem, what's a flash fiction.  We even found out that certain pieces are celebrated and have won awards in both categories.

I was more interested in the poetry half, since it was so different from the kind of writing we practice in the fiction workshops.  Intense images, sensory to the max, steeped in layers of meaning, and highly condensed prose with every word carrying a double dip of meaning, those concepts go with prose poems to me. I think of one centering about an image of a small basket of dead bees, covered over with a thin layer of red rose petals.  Or, a bag of dried human ears, dumped out on the dining room table.  Or a full moon noosed on a black cord, hanging over a house. But not all prose poems have an indelible image, an appeal to senses, power-packed verbiage where every word must have resulted from intense debate in the author's mind.  Some capture a scene with minimal poetic devices, with spare prose with simple beauty or starkness.  I might call them flash fiction, but perhaps there is not enough story line to make them count as stories.  The dividing line is assuredly murky and indistinct.  Our collections of each genre only made it less obvious that the two are distinct, while enticing us to write our way into the mystery.