Bin Ramke

Response & Bio

Question 7. Rosmarie Waldrop says that, " 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." What, if any, specific tools do you use when crafting a pp/ff?

Is the prose poem, in the very least, an alternative mode of articulation? Articulation, jointing. An articulated doll is one whose arms and legs move, a form of mimesis which is obviously limited and yet is a profound gesture toward some essence of human ability and ambition.

I find that the necessity to make the tiny announcements which are line-ends in "standard" verse becomes sometimes, often, annoying, arbitrary, and ultimately misleading. I know there should be something more to the articulations of the "prose poem" than the rejection of this one gestural act, (the movement of the eye right to left and down), but one might argue that the jointure of line to line is THE critical articulation of verse which prose-poetry isolates and supersedes, at its best. So when it works the articulation of the prose-poem is simultaneously subtler and more powerful (at its best) than the jangly articulations of the rattling-down-the-page from line to line (like ball bearings across the face of the pin-ball machine) of the other kind of poem (at its not-best).

There is more to the distinctions than this, but that "more" is available (to me) when it happens through the mechanism of the look of (and hence the invocation of the authority of) the paragraph. How a poem sets up expectations is how the poem vitalizes its elements. The expectations triggered by blocks of prose, packets of sentences, are complex and at times subtler, more nuanced, than the at-times overly self-conscious demands of the articulations of lines of verse.

The metaphor of poem as doll, as an imitation-child to be played with and learned from--of the poem as Pinocchio, as humunculous, as little mind-machine which takes after Daddy and Mommy but begins to behave and misbehave according to its own inner necessities, is a convenience. A way of articulating an issue.


Bin Ramke is editor of the Denver Quarterly and the Contemporary Poetry Series for the University of Georgia Press. He is the author of seven books of poems, the first of which, The Difference Between Night and Day, won the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1978. His most recent book, Airs, Waters, Places from the University of Iowa Press (2001), are observations made about his previous books of poems.

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