Rosmarie Waldrop

Response & Bio

Question 1. What is the difference between a prose poem and a flash fiction?

Verse refuses to fill up all of the available space of the page. Even if the words celebrate what is (which mine usually don't), each line acknowledges what is not. It makes manifest that "to create is to make a pact with nothingness" (Clark Coolidge). Or, as Heather McHugh put it: "[poetry] is the very art of turnings, toward the white frame of the page, toward the unsung, toward the vacancy made visible, that worldlessness in which our words are couched."

Perhaps the greatest challenge of the prose poem (as opposed to "flash fiction") is to compensate for the absence of the margin. I try to place the margin, the emptiness inside the text. I cultivate cuts, discontinuity, leaps, shifts of reference, etc. "Gap gardening," I have called it, and my main tool for it is collage.

This is perhaps just another way of talking about poetry as intense, concentrated language (as Pound and the German language know: "Dichten=condensare"), as cutting out steps. As Jacques Roubaud says, "one can always go farther. This does not mean one can always go farther, step by step."

(slightly revised from a note that appeared in New American Writing 15 (1997))


Rosmarie Waldrop's most recent books of poems are Reluctant Gravities (New Directions, 1999), Split Infinites (Singing Horse Press, 1998), and Another Language: Selected Poems (Talisman House, 1997). Northwestern has reprinted her two novels, The Hanky of Pippin's Daughter, and, A Form/of Taking/It All, in one paperback. She has translated forteen volumes of Edmond Jabès's work. Her memoir, Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès, is forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press in fall 2002. She lives in Providence, RI. where she co-edits Burning Deck books with Keith Waldrop.

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