Monday, 11 May 2015

Prose poetry

My writing friend, Rebecca Jessen, has introduced me to prose poetry. Well, not so much introduced me as told me that what I had written, what I had shown her for critiquing purposes, was prose poetry. What is prose poetry? Wikipedia defines it so: Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse, but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis and emotional effects.  So what is "parataxis"? Apparently parataxis is a literary technique in writing or speaking, that favours short, simple sentences, with the use of coordinating rather than subordinating conjunctions. It is also used to describe a technique in poetry in which two images or fragments, usually starkly dissimilar images or fragments, are juxtaposed without a clear connection. Readers are then left to make their own connections implied by the paratactic syntax.

I was pretty excited. I'm not much of a poet, so I was thrilled to be told I can write prose poetry.  The piece I'd written was called Winter and it was a collection of ideas, thoughts and feelings not only about the wintry season, but about being in the winter of one's life. I really enjoyed writing it. And Bec pointed out that the bits that succeeded the most were the ones where I'd given the description some detail. Rather than just talking about a cold wind that might blow in winter, I had talked about what effect this wind might have -- on me, on anybody.  The wind snatching at an umbrella and turning it into the underside of a bat's wing.(Or, in paratactic syntax: The wind snatching at an umbrella. The underside of a bat's wing.)

Photo Google Images
Photo Google Images CC

I had a line about the smell of baking biscuits, especially delightful when rain is pattering on the roof, and she told me to be more specific. What kind of biscuits are they? How do they smell? (I made them Anzac bikkies, and I said they smelt like Coconut!)  This attention to detail is something writers can all relate to. Go back to your work, look at your descriptions, and see how they can be improved by adding some or other attribute, it doesn't have to be big. Sometimes it's the tiny details that make the difference.

Oh, and try your hand at some prose poetry!  And parataxis!  

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