Monday, May 30, 2016

The Prose Block & The Poet

I've tried to be a prose poet.

Danielle Mitchell defines the prose poem as "a poem written in sentences. It appears as a block of text without line breaks. You could think of a prose poem as a bowl or a box with poetry inside. Despite the look of the prose poem its ultimate goal is to retain its poetic qualities."

I wanted a book out of that phase until another way I started writing proved to be inconsistent with the way I wrote then. Now I don't know how to explain the difference between what I write now, and what I wrote then.

All I know is that most of the writers that inspired me to write that way stopped writing that way too. One of them is Oakland Poet Ben Mirov. Mirov's latest poetry collection is called ghost machines and it was put out by Slope Editions, more recently this year. 

"I like to think of ghost machines as a relic from an alternate timeline, " says Mirov.

It reads that way too, because the first poems from it were written in 2006, four years before he released his debut poetry collection Ghost Machine (2010)

"The process started as a way of creating a sequel to my first book, Ghost Machine," says Mirov. "I went back and gathered many of the poems that helped me to work out my aesthetic ideas from it."

Where every section after these poems, begins with a prose block about something in gaming called "Ghost Mode," everything in between is entirely made up of sonnets.

"Specifically, there was a collection of sonnets (Ghost Machine) heavily influenced by Ted Berrigan's The Sonnets, and a collection of calligraphic poems," says Mirov. "These sets of poems were the prototype poems for the rest of this collection."

Mirov's Ghost Machine changed my life, so it was good to see him writing in this vain, but the question of what happened to the prose block/his use of it remained until I asked him why he stopped writing them. This was after I finished reading A Few Ideas from My Black Box and felt like it could've been written that way. I wondered why it wasn't.

"I guess I didn't feel any allegiance to the prose block form," says Mirov. "I might make more prose poems in the future, but I tend to think in terms of projects, and the next project I'm working on is just a bunch of poems, no prose."

The pursuit of this subject was a wild goose chase. It reminded me of an interview I had with Actress Greta Gerwig eight years ago about her role in Director Wes Anderson's Greenberg starring Ben Stiller.

"I think 'mumblecore' is kind of a silly term because I think it was applied after the fact by press," says Gerwig. "It's not really like a thing that exists. It's been used now as sort of a catch all phrase for any movie that was made under a low budget."

This portion of the interview was supposed to be about the genre of mumblecore pinning her under the title of "the first lady of mumblecore," and here Gerwig was telling me it's not a thing, the same way Mirov was telling me now that the prose block isn't really a thing to him anymore.

"In terms of outcomes in my writing, I'm less interested in reproducing a style of poem over and over than applying style as a way of achieving an aesthetic goal," says Mirov. "I don't really have a consistent style, except that I try to develop approaches to poetry that are novel and appropriate to the project I'm working on."

In so many words Mirov was saying that he didn't write his last couple of collections in prose because he's not necessarily a prose poet. I had the same trouble with Poet and Author of Caves (2015) Zachary Cosby when I tried to talk to him about the same thing.

"I honestly don't have much to say about prose poems," says Cosby. "I tried to write like 60 of them for a book but I never felt like they were any good. I actually feel embarrassed by them tbh."

"Same," I thought to myself. "Same."

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