Every form is a bastard form, but some are more so than others. Enter here the prose poem. If ever an oxymoronic form has existed, surely it is the prose poem. Half prose, half poem: a chimera. But which part is prose? Which is poem? How come? Why so? What does it matter? Perhaps we can say this: A prose poem is a piece of writing in paragraphical form (hence the “prose” of its name) written with attention given more to its musicality, rhythm, sound, and structure than to its plot, character(s), or narrative arc (hence the “poetry” of its name). But there’s far more to it! Come join us as we explore “the box wherein strange shit happens” and attempt to uncover how and why prose poetry continues to enthrall poets and readers alike. We will read several examples of prose poetry from the past 150 years and write some of our own. Finally, you will leave this class with some writing exercises, book/poet recommendations, and a better idea of what a prose poem is and what it can do.
Gary McDowell's Aflame won the 2019 White Pine Press Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in Fall 2020. He is also the author of Caesura: Essays (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017) and Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016), among other books. His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, New England Review, and The Southern Review.
"Gary McDowell was an encouraging, knowledgeable and generous instructor. In his class, I not only learned much more about the technical aspects of writing a poem than I had known before but with his help, was inspired to infuse certain of my poems with greater clarity and strength."
"Encyclopedic knowledge of modern American poetry, willing to share what he has learned about writing itself, which is considerable and worthwhile, all this remarkably without ego; Gary creates a stimulating supportive space to learn."
"Gary set a great workshop tone. He was totally supportive and inclusive, expertly steering discussion but also talking to us as peers. He had things to add, but was never overbearing. I loved his way of instructing and would take a class from him again!"