In this essay, poet Natasha Sajé examines the origins of the prose poem in an attempt to distinguish what a prose poem is and how it works. In considering the definitions put forth by other poets, she sees the prose poem generally as prose which is “straining toward style” (a phrase used by Mallarmé), most often short, and determined by content in that prose poems use more of the conventions of poetry than those of other prose genres. She asserts that “the prose poem is a hybrid that actually derives its energy from the collision of opposites,” which leads her to discuss the prose poem as a reaction to other forms, and most particularly, she argues, as a reaction against the realist novel, which was developing at the same time as the prose poem. The ability to use dialogism and displace the lyric subject within prose also results in many subjects that are politically subversive. Sajé uses Baudelaire as an example of the French origins of the prose poem, arguing that the variety of new techniques Baudelaire used in his prose poems led the way for surrealism, Dadism, and many other new techniques and movements within poetry. Baudelaire's poetry also presents an argument against the idea that prose poems must use heightened poetical language, as the tone of his poems, like many other prose poems, is informal and conversational. Sajé does not finish with any kind of complete definition for the prose poem, but instead ends with an idea suggested by the poet Ann Killough that while lineated poetry seems to demand some kind of certainty or retrieval, the prose poem allows the poet to “get lost” in order to find something “real.”
Sajé, Natasha. “A Sexy New Animal: The DNA of the Prose Poem.” The Writer's Chronicle. 44.5 (2012): 34-49. Print.