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Response & Bio Sarah Elisabeth Freeman

Question #1) In issue #3 of Double Room, Ron Silliman suggests that it is erroneous to assume “that a signature feature of the prose poem is its brevity.” He calls this misguided assumption, Jacob’s fallacy, and he further argues that considering the differences between the prose poem and the flash fiction is “like trying to identify the border between, say, Korean & Portuguese, similar insofar as each is a language.” Do you agree with Silliman’s assessment? In contrast, Ava Chin suggests that she wrote flash fiction during a period when she was extremely overworked: “their jarring method and brevity, their element of surprise, lent themselves well to my shortened yet heightened attention span.” Chin seems to suggest that the brevity aided and enabled a new kind of invention for her. Do you think that prose poetry and flash fiction do have some kind of compression or brevity as a related characteristic? When you write in this form, the pp/ff, do you place any space or length restrictions on yourself?

Silliman’s assertion that brevity is not a “signature feature” of the prose poem is absolutely correct. There is no reason for writers or readers of the prose poem to expect it to be shorter—or longer, for that matter—than a poem in verse.

When I write, I write the poem that must at that moment be written. Whether it is a poem with line breaks or a poem in prose, it is a piece that has no space or length restrictions—it is a force of language and imagination driving itself forward, that I assist in its drive forward, that I shape as it shapes itself, that I work into being what it is, what it needs to be. This is the form with which I concern myself—the form the poem itself dictates.


Sarah Elisabeth Freeman’s poems and prose poems have appeared in various journals, including recent issues of The Iowa Review and the Seattle Review. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and recipient of a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, she now lives in Portland, Oregon.