Inspired by a prompt from Luke Kennard, the denizens of an online poetry group I belong to have launched forth into the form. Some, I think, found it liberating; others were more tentative. I put in my tuppence-worth too. So what’s it all about?
Wikipedia defines it thus: Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis and emotional effects. So far, so good; it’s a kind of hybrid, it’s image-rich, and it does away with some ‘connection words’ between clauses, so it can be quite condensed in texture, if that’s what the writer wants.
I’d argue that the haibun I often write are a specific form of prose poetry, with additional rules derived from Japanese practice – writing in the spirit of haiku, usually present tense, and with parallel haiku included.
Luke himself is one of our best writers of prose poems, and he uses a variety of techniques such as repetition with variation to increase their impact.
What I enjoy about the form is the freedom from the line-break. The writer can vary rhythm and breathing – and hence the reading – just by choosing the appropriate word and sentence lengths, without worrying about the approach of the end of the line. It’s fun to alternate languid, image-rich sentences with short, choppy ones which take the reader into different thought patterns.