In answer to the following section
of Question #5: How does the prose poem form enable this ambiguity
that Dunham suggests.
Laurel Snyder, “the process of crossing genres (i.e. pp/ff)...
changes the lens enough . . . (that it) feels really productive.
It changes the slant, the assumptions, the way the work is read.” How
does the pp/ff allow you to make this “leap” in a way
that remains ambiguous and allows you to subvert previous assumptions?
When attempting to write a prose poem -- at
least at the initial stages of composition -- I'm trying first
of all to subvert my
own assumptions. It's like a little trick I play on myself, saying
to myself, "Oh, this is just going to be a paragraph, not
a Poem, and it can go in any direction, it doesn't have to leap
down the page, it can leap sideways, or backwards, or forwards." And
the leaps might be more surprising because there isn't the clearing
of the white space to indicate where the leaps might be made or
have been made. So the leaps seem sneakier, and thus the form allows
me to escape my own expectations of Poetry, and of the composition
process, and even of cause and effect. Because the paragraph might
start out pretending to be a story, and then not be
-- at least not a story in the conventional sense, because really
I already know (even if I'm pretending not to know) that it's not
going to go on long enough for the usual kind of narrative to evolve
in the usual way. It's going to turn suddenly into a dark alley
or onto a blazing boulevard and stop there, leaving me stranded,
dazed or dazzled. And one hopes, of course, that it has
that kind of effect on the reader, too. As a reader of prose poems
and flash fiction I enjoy having this trick played on me. It's
like the way a little kid loves having the same trick played on
her over and over again: “Oh that's not really the tip of
your nose that Daddy's got wedged between the knuckles of his fingers” but
it looks like it is, and for a minute you believe it, and it's
wonderful and horrifying.
Cecilia Woloch is the author of Sacrifice (Cahuenga
Press 1997); Tsigan: The
Gypsy Poem (Cahuenga Press 2002); and Late, (BOA
Editions Ltd. 2003). She is the
Director of Summer Poetry in Idyllwild. She spends part of each
year traveling, lecturing and teaching throughout Europe, and
maintains residences in both Los Angeles and Atlanta.