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Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Poetic and prosaic. Metaphorically, poetry is: 

 a quality of beauty and intensity of emotion regarded as characteristic of poems: poetry and fire are nicely balanced in the music.  something regarded as comparable to poetry in its beauty: the music department is housed in a building that is pure poetry.
Prose and prosaic mean: 
 plain or dull writing, discourse, or expression: medical and scientific prose.
having the style or diction of prose; lacking poetic beauty: prosaic language can't convey the experience.  commonplace; unromantic: the masses were too preoccupied by prosaic day-to-day concerns.
 Here is some language from a poem by Mary Jo Bang in the latest NYRB:  "The question is not whether we have free will, but what choices history offers us. The strongest force is conformity, not passion, not even greed for possessions."  There's nothing new about prosaic language in a poem, which is familiar from some modernist poetry. It should be good prose, though, or else used ironically. I thought of this because in the first two articles in this issue the prose writers independently used poetry in the honorific sense. 


Vance Maverick said...

In some ways, modernism has not yet made its mark -- when Cuomo said "you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose", nobody objected "But what about WCW?"

I've been starting to try to interest people in my Yeats opera project. It's clear that for some people, the "Modernism" of this play from 1916 is still unfamiliar territory -- the ideas that the collapse of the "story" might be the story, that it might resist explication, that it might combine levels of discourse in order to point in a third direction outside the plane, is alienating and unserious.

Jonathan said...

I was thinking of Marianne Moore. Modernism is all about charging language with meaning, and that is precisely what Bang is not doing. In other words, the prose has to infuse those prose structures with energy that ordinary prose doesn't have.

Vance Maverick said...

yep, "as well written as prose" doesn't mean "as well as average prose", but "having the same virtues we identify with good prose".

Jonathan said...

Really, I've always taken it as "better than prose," so that that would be an easy way to say that poetry is not very well written--not as good as we expect even from prose.