Eyes Inside Words: Prose poetry, Imagism, aesthetic empathy and autobiographical memory

Paul HETHERINGTON, Cassandra Atherton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the features of contemporary prose poetry is that it often makes conspicuous use of imagery, in some cases drawing on techniques pursued by the Imagist movement in the early 20th century. In Ezra Pound’s words, the Imagists were interested in ‘art that bears true witness ... art that is most precise’. Contemporary prose poets frequently try to honour the spirit of Pound’s comment as they make images in their prose poems and, in doing so, providing readers with a way of imaginatively entering their works, enabling them to read them ‘from within’. Visual imagery in prose poetry provides a pathway through which readers are able to achieve aesthetic empathy with such works, allowing them to read these works as if their propositions are actually and presently the case. While the same may be said for poetry more generally, we argue that it is especially the case in prose poetry, where the rectangular form draws the reader into a room-like space. This tends to generate a compressed sense of timespace and thus intensify the effects of imagery and its connections to autobiographical memory. In the absence of line breaks and the kinds of closure associated with lineated poetry, visual imagery also helps crystallise the utterance of prose poems, bringing it into focus—almost as if prose poems see and, in turn, are able to be seen through.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalTEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses
Issue numberSpecial Issue 46
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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