Response & Bio
Question: What specific traits have you found to differentiate between prose poetry and flash fiction? Do you believe that writing a pp/ff assumes certain accepted conventions and/or restrictions?
There are certain characteristics that, even if in the most general way, seem to govern prose poems and short fictions. These are, obviously: brevity, heightened attention to language, the use of surprise, humor, a circular, irrational logic, etc. While these characteristics live in other literary genres, they seem to apply, across the board, to most examples of these hybrid forms. As for the differences between short fictions and prose poems-the former clearly focuses on character and situations, the latter on the elasticity of sound and language-meaning. But the central unique characteristic of both forms, for me, is their ability to bridge gaps and absences, to imply and provide connections between seemingly disparate elements, to create connections where none seemed previously to exist. In conventional narrative the gaps between events and ideas are overtly linked through plain exposition; in conventional poetry the gaps are represented spatially and symbolically on the page. But in pp/ff we are locked in a box with the things of life, and no instruction manual save our proximity to these things, and the implication that they somehow fit together. We are forced to connect the dots. Reading a pp/ff is like treading a strange and alluring path, jumping from one stone into mid-air with no idea where the next one is placed, fearing the very real possibility of missing the stone altogether and tumbling through space. But, magically, imaginatively, a foothold always seems to materialize beneath us. In this way, pp/ff are much like life.
Question: How does a good prose poem get inside of you? What sorts of life and humanity are they best at revealing? Which authors get in there the best? What other colors, sensations, associations can you relate to reading a good pp or ff?
Prose and short fictions show us the mind waking up with a stretch, giving a little hiccup, happening upon a nickel and some lint on the coffee table and making a life-sized marionette with lipstick. Everything we've ever feared is kept in its pocket. Some dark baseball diamond. Saying goodbye to my brother. But it also makes us happy as a book by James Tate. Spring morning. Overall refreshing. A swan dive into a cup of ice water. Chewing a rubber birthday cake with your eyes closed.
Anthony Tognazzini has lived in California, Texas, the Philippines, Spain, New York, Germany, the Czech Republic and Indiana. His work has appeared or will appear in Quarterly West, paragraph, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill, River City, Quick Fiction, Hayden's Ferry Review, Pindeldyboz, Mississippi Review, the Alaska Quarterly Review, and in Sudden Stories: A Mammoth Anthology of Minuscule Fiction. His first collection of prose poems and short fictions is entitled I Carry A Hammer In My Pocket For Occasions Such As These. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org