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Response & Bio Marcella Durand

Question #12) Elizabeth Robinson: “I am interested in poetry – be it prose or lyric – because of the way it engages with processes of patterning. As patterning is also constitutive of narrative, poems, like narrative, are always playing at reality-making at history-making.”

Question #13) Ever Saskya on technique: “The poetic techniques in the prose poem are a combination of decocting and expanding. Poetry attempts to heat apart—(often) break down/disjoint the assimilation into parts—what narrative often infers in expanse. The most instinctive part of the prose poem, for me, is the appearance of wholeness, which is not actual; this instinctive part allows me to disjoint and assimilate the parts into a heterogeneous work, created from fragments, which appears homogeneous; the narrative quality of the prose poem allows this assimilation to have expanse, and the disjointedness to adhere in pieces and present a whole/fixed space of utterance within the swirling.”

I hope I can be allowed to respond to two statements, as they both address the way prose poems create, simultaneously, a particular process of “assimilating/patterning/reality-making” and a perceived solidity of words/images that comes from being in the shape of a block. Both Saskya and Robinson make me think of Francis Ponge, who directed his words toward reality in such a way that his work was both and neither prose and poetry. And that makes me think of how the prose poem has become for many French poets, such as Nathalie Quintane, a way to chronicle unchronologically—and sans narrator—the banality and absurdity of reality. I could put reality in quotation marks, but will not, because I believe much of the vitality of the poetic word, whether in verse or prose, comes from the poet’s effort to move outside herself towards that mysterious yet real “other,” whether it is language or weather. I’m unconvinced, however, by Saskya that, even though prose poems present themselves in a certain shape, they can be a “whole/fixed place.” Rather, as they typically miss the perfect square by a few lines over or under, they often seem to trail off into the next prose poem, like misshapen bon-bons. Prose poems can pretend to be solid, but the expected “action” is truncated and the narration obfuscated or non-existent. Instead, they can act as elongated and luminous windows into some sort of intersection between reality and language.


Marcella Durand is the author of Western Capital Rhapsodies (Faux Press, 2001). Her chapbook, The Anatomy of Oil, will be published this winter by Belladonna. She is co-editing with Kristin Prevallet and Olivier Brossard an anthology of French poetry (which includes many prose poems), forthcoming from Talisman House, and is currently the editor of the Poetry Project Newsletter.