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Response & Bio Cecilia Woloch

In answer to the following section of Question #5: How does the prose poem form enable this ambiguity that Dunham suggests. For 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.