Alice Fulton wrote, “Narrative is about what happens next; poetry is about what happens now.” But what about the interstitial space between narrative and poetry? What happens there? How can we write prose (fiction specifically) that sounds like poetry? Perhaps we do so by writing as Octavio Paz writes: “memory become image, and image become voice.”
Though poems are (usually) lineated and prose is not, they do have a common unit of measure: the sentence. In this class, we will look at how using the heightened language normally associated with poetry can both make more unique and more sonically pleasing our prose. Can a sentence be a song? Can a paragraph be both a visual and sonic space? Can fiction that sounds like poetry still possess narrative thrust and drive? These, among other, questions will be our focus.
Remember what Baudelaire wrote in his introduction to Paris Spleen: “Which of us, in his ambitious moments, has not dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical, without rhyme and without rhythm, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of the psyche, the prickings of consciousness?”
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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!"