An Introduction to... Louis Jenkins
Originally published on everythingbutamisprint.tumblr.com in February 2011.
"Always be a poet, even in prose"
There is much debate over prose poetry's right to exist as a literary genre. For many, the pairing of the two words to describe a piece of writing is oxymoronic; it seems that most critics cannot abide prose poetry's desire to place itself somewhere between the two forms of writing. Some argue that, due to its heightened attention to language and fondness for techniques common to poetry (such as metaphor, fragmentation, compression, repetition and rhyme) the form belongs to poetry alone, whilst others point in the opposite direction, towards an aversion to line breaks and a reliance on prose's association with narrative – perhaps evidence enough that it should be considered only under the prose genre's already vast umbrella.
Peter Johnson, editor of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, suggests that "just as black humor [sic] straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels." Prose poetry is described as such because of its fusion of prosaic and poetic elements; it is a literary hybrid that fervently refuses to be pigeonholed. Perhaps the most helpful definition comes from the Serbian-American poet Charles Simic, who likens the form to "peasant dishes, like paella or gumbo, which bring together a great variety of ingredients and flavors [sic], and which in the end, thanks to the art of the cook, somehow blend."