Opting for an anthology.

I’d been thinking about prose poetry for some time before I bought The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, back in March. What I mean is, this wasn’t one of those whim-purchases that I generally specialize in. It was a gap in my library that had niggled at my consciousness for some time.

The choices I’d found by trawling the internet were not extensive, but all looked interesting. I whittled my list down by deciding I wasn’t looking for a historical perspective. I’d discovered plenty of well-written articles and essays about that on-line, and then there was a call for submissions for an anthology by The Valley Press. It had a 2018 deadline, but I followed the links and found that the anthology had been published in 2019.

The blurb for it said, Prose poetry is at the cutting edge of contemporary writing, freeing words from the bounds of traditional poetic grammar and bringing the magic of verse to flash fiction.’ That sounded like the writing I was looking for.

Of course, it’s easy to make promises, and I wasn’t so sure about the claim that this volume was ‘ambitious‘ and ‘ground-breaking‘. It felt like a heavy sales pitch, for an anthology promoting brevity.

Maybe prose-poetry needs a harder sell. It is, after all, a hybrid form.

When I mention prose-poetry in classes, many readers haven’t heard of it. Often, those who have aren’t sure what it is. Few have bought any.

If asked, my advice to readers who are looking for adventure, is to try an anthology. That way, we meet lots of different authors, and there are likely to be at least one or two pieces of writing that we will be glad to have read. Single author collections are fine if you’re already familiar with their form, and style, but risky if you’re new to them. Most of my risks are cheap, found in the second hand market.

I thought about that, back in March, when I was dithering over buying this anthology. Do I support writers, as consistently as I do charity shops?

No.

Lately, my buying habit has been so focused on catching up with reading I’ve missed, that I’ve not thought about what’s new. Most of my books are ten years old, or more, and that age-gap is likely to increase as my shelves continue to overflow.

I don’t want my reading to keep up with my book buying. I like slipping across decades and centuries, styles, forms and genres. My bookshelves are also an anthology. They hold enough of a variety that I can dip in at random, choose by purpose, or turn to another title if a first choice doesn’t supply what I’m looking for.

Why else would I want to keep so many books?

38 thoughts on “Opting for an anthology.

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book of prose poetry. Or, if I have, I didn’t know what it was – poetry is poetry for me.
    But the piece about an anthology – that there’s bound to be at least one or two you enjoy? This reminds me when I was young and would buy a book of poetry or short story collections, find nothing I enjoy, put it aside, and then months later pick it up and try again. I usually enjoyed it the second time around. I haven’t done that in a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You really can’t have too many books! I know it’s a hackneyed saying but it’s true. I’m like you, I love buying books from second-hand shops, and new ones occasionally. Having a good selection of unread books with a 20-30 year ‘age gap’ (love that phrase) really was a boon under our hard lockdown: 5 weeks when all but food shops and pharmacies were closed. What was the hungry reader to do? I went to my book shelves and found a few gems, which would, very likely, still be languishing unread! Dabble and dip 🙂

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  3. I’ve been familiar with prose poems from poets whose work included them. Baudelaire and Rimbaud come to mind. Turgenev, Whitman, Rilke & Trakl (who I’ve been reading more of lately due to Wittgenstein).
    I never wrote prose poetry; indeed, my first instinct with writing poetry of that kind was reading Eliot and his regards to the separation of poetry as-is and verse. Sadly, Eliot was perhaps the largest opposer of prosaic poetry, and I thus lost the zest to take a chance at it. This is all highly formal, however. The prose I post on my blog is highly perfused with poetic elements that bleed from my compositions, and my compositions are terribly influence by the prose I read, which comprises the bulk of my reading. There is an inevitably symbiosis that even Eliot went on to admit.
    Most modern poets I read often bake prose poems into their collections of verse, most notably authors of the Portuguese language, in which prose poems are more recent and less explored.
    I, too, have been debating highly on my maddening urge to read so many aspects of classic literature or “big” literature and not leaving enough space of the current. Our cultural heritage is so smothering, I find, not just for the writer, but for the reader. And visibility is also an issue, especially in regards to the literary genre that doesn’t have the marketing and magnitude of YA or Fantasy or Non-Fiction. Authors like Ann Carson, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Donald Antrim were writers that came to my attention absolutely randomly, from footnotes and credits of scholarly reviews or articles, and that shouldn’t be the case, while a creator like Sarah J. Maas is a name that most recognise even without having read any court (which I haven’t). Without knowing the right creators for us, we can’t support them, and we can’t show the market that there’s a place for them, were publishers invested in making these names reach my eyes or ears.
    It’s our responsibility as readers, I find, to go and look, but most of us don’t have the time, and I understand that as well.
    Sorry if I talk to much, but I felt like I had much to say, haha.

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  4. I agree when you say that with an anthology “we meet lots of different authors, and there are likely to be at least one or two pieces of writing that we will be glad to have read.” Anthologies also introduce us to new voices that we can connect with and explore further by buying their books, if already published.

    My collection of books to read are mainly research materials for my third book in progress about woman as a social construct. Not fun reading, I’m sad to say 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, further exploration is one of the several additional advantages I didn’t mention about reading anthologies.
      You sound very focused, and I like the sound of your work in progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with your idea of going for an anthology. I feel like I’ll never get to read enough, as much as I want to, because it’s impractical. Onism exists afterall. But anthologies give us a wider range of experience than one focusing only on a single poet would. Loved your post by the way!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I also have not read prose poetry as yet, just a few articles about it online. But I would love to read it for sure and starting with an anthology would be best.

    Cath, I enjoyed this post so much, the writing style… you’re so witty. Yay!
    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I ascribe to your idea of diversity in reading, Cath – I think it’s not only refreshing, but it helps to see unexpected links and trends across genres and centuries, allowing us to better explore the various hues and shapes of humanity.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oooooo, I love that idea of one’s bookshelf being an anthology. So true! We’ve gathered and culled and shared these harvests of words with anyone willing–or unwilling–to listen.
    And of prose poetry, I only know Seamus Heaney’s, which…I just don’t think anyone could top his work. Perhaps the subject matter would be the game-changer in that regard, as his is so often set in nature, or the small town.
    Hope you’re well! xxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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