A tradition of subversion: the prose poem in English from by Margueritte S. Murphy

By Margueritte S. Murphy

From its inception in nineteenth-century France, the prose poem has embraced a classy of outrage and innovation instead of culture and conference. during this suggestive research, Margueritte S. Murphy either explores the historical past of this style in Anglo-American literature and offers a version for interpreting the prose poem, without reference to language or nationwide literature. Murphy argues that the prose poem is an inherently subversive style, person who needs to ceaselessly undermine prosaic conventions that allows you to validate itself as authentically "other". even as, every one prose poem needs to to a point recommend a conventional prose style with the intention to subvert it effectively. The prose poem is therefore of precise curiosity as a style within which the normal and the recent are introduced unavoidably and constantly into clash.

Beginning with a dialogue of the French prose poem and its adoption in England by means of the Decadents, Murphy examines the consequences of this organization on later poets reminiscent of T.S. Eliot. She additionally explores the conception of the prose poem as an androgynous style. Then, with a sensitivity to the sociopolitical nature of language, she attracts at the paintings of Mikhail Bakhtin to light up the ideology of the style and discover its subversive nature. the majority of the booklet is dedicated to insightful readings of William Carlos Williams's Kora in Hell, Gertrude Stein's smooth Buttons, and John Ashbery's 3 Poems. As extraordinary examples of the yankee prose poem, those works display the diversity of this genre's radical and experimental percentages.

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The "action" of the stairway simulates a sexual mounting, a sinister anticipation of the narrator's own amorous failure, a representation of his own illusory hopes. Finally, the focus turns to the tapestries along the wall of ascent. They have faded with time: The pinks have whitened; the whites have become more eburnean and more creamy; the greens have been transmuted into blues, blues melting into shades more tender. And they offer sites of peace and repose a nature calm and artificial, a little chimerical, where one would fain lead one's vagrant thought through those scenes of joy and of happy siestas; parks whose alleys encircle lawns where the grass is represented by designs in arabesque; sheets of water bordered by vases and mythological statues, losing themselves under the blue shadow of the trees; basins into which drip over-full fountains.

In nineteenth-century France, there arose a poetic genre that seemed, by definition, to take poetry as far beyond its conventional boundaries as possible. This genre, the prose poem, was a genre formed in violation of genre, a seeming hybrid, in name a contradiction in terms. The first important exponent and practitioner of the prose poem was Charles Baudelaire, although he acknowledges Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la Nuit (1842) as the "mystérieux et brillant modèle" for his own collection, Petits poèmes en prose.

I feel we would misconstrue the nature and spirit of this "open'' and "dangerous" form (Baudelaire) to presume that the sort of discursive experimentation achieved by American poets such as Gertrude Stein and Ashbery goes beyond the parameters of what the prose poem can or should do. In a way, this French form seems to fall prey to an isolationist aesthetic that American poetry would construct to lay claim to its own turf as an independent and "new" tradition. Yet, given the counterexample of vers libre, a French form that found widespread acceptance in American poetry, I feel that the reified view of the prose poem as a remnant of aestheticism was more lethal to its use by American poets, although the genre did form part of aestheticism's own defense against the utilitarian and "anti-art" tendencies of the middle class in Victorian England.

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