Thom Ward

Response & Bio

Question 1. In Adagia, Wallace Stevens writes, "Poetry is a pheasant disappearing in the brush." What is a pp/ff?

Yes, most often, I would agree with Mr. Stevens, "that poetry is a pheasant disappering in the brush." I interpret that to mean that our poetic speech is more verb than noun, looks to imaginatively suggest and nuance more than anchor in some kind of rigid naming. Or, from another perspective, poetic speech is capacious enough to be both clear and enigmatic, peripheral, direct and mysterious.

I lean toward the slippery slope of Stevens assertion, and the more I lean toward it, the further it slips from me. I suppose this is my way of saying I have no idea what the true or sustaining definition of a prose poem or flash fiction is. Nor do I plan on ruminating over the issue.

What I do care about are the internal workings and playings of poetry and fiction. In the midst of a second or third read, I'll wonder how the language is slipping though me, how it is triggering conscious responses and dredging up the old, sacred stuff buried in the unconscious. Surely, flash fictions can collapse the distance and distinction between writer and reader (and, by extention, time and space). In the hands of an able author, they accomplish this as nimbly and effectively as our poems. When I feel this kind of collapsing occur, I know I'm in the greater atmosphere of aesthetic transport, and that, not only is the language disappearing, but the self I present to myself and the world, is also disappearing, if only in the artifice of the language facade. What a gift. Give me such artifice, whether framed in poetry or prose. Let it flash, let it sudden, let the pheasant fly and touch down, fly and touch down, hedgerow to imaginary hedgerow.


Thom Ward is Editor of BOA Editions, Ltd. His poetry collections include Tumblekid (University of South Carolina-Aiken) and Small Boat with Oars of Different Size (Carnegie Mellon University Press). His new collection, Various Orbits, will be published by Carnegie Mellon in 2003. He lives with his wife, three children, two cottonwood trees, a dog and a cat (and a varying number of wild turkeys) in Palmyra, New York.

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