site map

Response & Bio Gerry LaFemina

In response to points raised in various questions:

Several of these statements have dealt with the nature of genre, particularly regarding the relationship between prose poetry and flash fictions (though the one that discusses Tate broaches another question, re: narrative, lineated poetry), so I thought I’d jump in. First off, there are some poets for whom the line is nothing more than an arbitrary device, and when they write narratives it sounds like prose, but if those pieces had their line breaks removed, would they be prose poems? I don’t know. Either way, I think poems or prose poems that are purely narrative are problematic: I remember Frank Stewart once saying he “didn’t trust” pure narrative in poetry. I concur. I think the prose poem uses (or ought to use) the remaining poetic devices (other than lineation) as fully as possible, and that, losing the rhythmic unit of the line, a prose poet is forced to recreate the rhythmic unit of the sentence in a way flash fictions don’t have to. In the prose poem the sentence must crack like a whip, taming the lions, tigers, elephants, and poodles of language. Or at least get them dancing. This is because, since the rise of prose as the story-telling vehicle, narrative has become secondary in poetry. The fundamental drive in poetry (lineated or prose poetry) is lyricism– that setting of a magnifying glass to an emotional/spiritual/psychological/imaginative moment and allowing others access into it. The zen koan, which attempts to recreate a satoric paradigm, is more prose poem than an Aesopian fable because the fundamental drive of a fable is narrative, which is the nature of flash fictions, short-shorts, novellinis, or whatever you want to call them. For me, the difference between the genres has always been that difference: prose poetry uses narrative to help emphasize a lyric moment, whereas flash fictions and such use lyricism to help emphasize a narrative experience.


Gerry LaFemina is the author of several collections of poetry including Graffiti Heart, The Window Facing Winter, and the recently released The Parakeets of Brooklyn, which received the 2003 Bordighera Prize and was published in a bilingual edition of English and Italian. His book of prose poems, Zarathustra in Love, was released in 2001.