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Response & Bio Danielle Dutton

Question #6) “ I like the invocation of the prose paragraph by something that is not really prose,” writes Robert Urquhart. He suggests that the prose poem is “like the hummingbird moth’s eerie impersonation, or the sound of the carriages of Frankfurt that Heidi mistook for the wind in the pines on her mountain.” For Urquhart, “The string of words (in prose poetry) calls in question the relations among them, where the line asserts these.” This is a somewhat different take on the prose poem, which is often associated with a subversion of both prose and poetry, but not as much as a rupture or fragmentation of syntax and word relation as poems with line breaks. Instead, Urquhart seems to suggest that the prose poem calls into question syntax and word relations more than verse. Karla Kelsey’s response to this genre seems to enact the very suggestion Urquhart makes: “Why is not a poem, it is the pause of the poem, the slowing into connectors--in the prose poem the Why seeps into a particular How of a particular form, turning the form into a logical box that the sound the word the line exceeds.” In what ways do you think the prose poem enables disrupted and ruptured syntax? How does the prose poem call into question relations among words?

I agree with Robert that “the invocation of the prose paragraph by something that is not really prose” is an exciting moment, and one that does actually manage to feel subversive in a way that just calling something by a non-traditional generic name does not; but I guess the answer I’m about to give is more in response to one of the other questions, because what I wanted to say was that while I’m happy enough to read or write something that someone wants to calls “flash fiction,” I’m more concerned with how it is than what it is, and that it’s interesting in some way whether we call it poetry or fiction or hybrid-genre or whatever (and, for example, when what looks like prose doesn’t act like prose, I am, more often than not, interested, tuned in). I guess I agree with Peter Richards that the term “flash fiction” seems largely promotional, which is to say, not the concern of the writing, but of the defining of the writing; and I’m more interested in whatever gaps we can find as writers than the definitions we can come up with to close them.


Danielle Dutton’s writing and reviews have appeared in Fence, NOON, 3rd Bed, Pompom, the Denver Quarterly, CONTEXT, The Review of Contemporary Fiction and online at Tarpaulin Sky.