Out of the Ordinary

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Poetry and Strangeness

This paper explores prose poems: a mode of poetry that consciously embraces what is strange, subverting the familiar and the known, and rejecting both the affordances of the line break and the notion of a poetry tradition as articulated by, for example, TS Eliot and Harold Bloom. Prose poetry’s push/pull relationship with story, openness to dada elements, manipulation of syntax, and refusal of the affordances of lineation in favour of the box combine to produce what can often be (read as) a disruptive anti-aesthetic. My focus in this paper is on selected prose poems, published across the past seven decades, that diverge from the imagistic (19th-century) European tradition and the formalist (20th-century) American tradition. These poems offer an alternative engagement with language and lived experience, and deploy linguistic and imagist gestures to generate moments of startle – the strangeness – that shifts the expectations of poetry’s ‘business as usual’ to an awareness of other ways of perceiving the world. I draw on prose poems written by poets ranging from Amy Lowell (1950s) to Harryette Mullen (2000s) and, looking to insights offered in Gaston Bachelard’s Water and Dreams, consider what openness to strangeness can afford both poetic practice and political critique.
Period6 Dec 2022
Event typeConference
LocationCanberra, Australia, Australian Capital TerritoryShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal