I am an ephemeral and not too discontented citizen of a
metropolis thought to be modern because every known
taste has been avoided in the furnishings and exteriors
of the houses as well as in the layout of the city. Here
you will not be able to make out the remains of any
monument to superstition. Morality and language have
been reduced to their simplest expression, at last! These
millions of people who do not need to know each other
conduct their education, profession and old age so
similarly that the course of their lives must be several
times shorter than that which mad statistics show for
the peoples of the continent. Just as, from my window,
I see new spectres rolling through the thick and eternal
coal smoke — our woodland shade, our summer night! —
new Furies, before my cottage which is my homeland
and all my heart since everything here resembles this —
Death without tears, our active daughter and servant,
a desperate Love and a pretty Crime whimpering in the
mud of the street.
(Arthur Rimbaud translated by Robert Yates)
Prose poetry originated in nineteenth-century France, reaching perhaps its highest point in the work of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud. A prose poem may have any features of the lyric, except that it is set out on the page for the eye - though not the ear - as prose.
The Norton Anthology of Poetry
Charles Baudelaire (1821 - 1867)
Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) is a volume of French poetry by Charles Baudelaire. First published in 1857, it was important in the symbolist and modernist movements and expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the nineteenth century. The principal themes of sex and death were considered scandalous. He also touched on lesbianism, sacred and profane love, metamorphosis, melancholy, the corruption of the city, lost innocence, the oppressiveness of living, and wine. Notable in some poems is Baudelaire's use of imagery of the sense of smell and of fragrances, which is used to evoke feelings of nostalgia and past intimacy. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose poetry influenced a whole generation of poets. For examples of his work, follow this link.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854 - 1891)
Arthur Rimbaud is one of the world’s most influential writers, having a direct influence on as diverse an array of artists as Oscar Wilde, Federico Garcia Lorca, Hart Crane, Jack Kerouac, Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan. He wrote all of his masterpieces before the age of 20. His major work of prose poetry, Illuminations, is considered to be ground-breaking in the genre.
Our Challenge this week is to write a piece of prose poetry. The lay-out of such a poem is entirely at the poet's discretion, so long as it is not displayed in verse or stanza. In the example given below, poet Geoffrey Hill insisted his lines be laid out as follows:
The princes of Mercia were badger and raven. Thrall
to their freedom, I dug and hoarded. Orchards
fruited above the clefts. I drank from honeycombs of
(from Mercian Hymns)
One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.