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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Students Study Edson, Write a Mess-o Prose Poems

The challenge:

I provide a short lecture on the prose poem, including:

how Russell Edson likens the prose poem to the offspring of a giraffe and an elephant: It may look grotesque but is hailed nonetheless as a beautiful animal.

how Charles Simic refers to the prose poem as an impossible amalgamation of lyric poetry, anecdote, fairy tale, allegory, joke, journal entry, and many other kinds of prose . . . the culinary equivalent of paella and gumbo, which bring together a great variety of ingredients and flavors, and which in the end, thanks to the art of the cook, somehow blend.

how James Tate says The prose poem is an effective means of seduction. For one thing, the deceptively simple packaging: the paragraph. People generally do not run for cover when they are confronted with a paragraph or two. The paragraph says to them: I will not take much of your time, and I am not known to be arcane, obtuse, precious or high falutin’. Come on in.

We read some excerpts from Tender Buttons, all the while bearing in mind that prose poems are little paragraphs of rebellion, shirking the staid and predictable.

Here's a sampling of what they came up with. They are beginning poetry students, yet I know I could not have outdone them as an MFA student studying at the UW.

Hats off to you, my dear disciples of Edson!

Football Pot

My mom loves to cook in her football pot. My crazy uncle likes to give the most random presents someone could give and she got lucky with the football present one year. Every Sunday she brings out the pots and fills them with different things. Meatballs are always a touchdown in my house and if she has nacho dip in the other then the extra point was good in our book. She complains that she can’t use them for everything but I beg to differ. Who doesn’t want to eat their food out of a football?

--Kedja Johnson

Ant Farm

I was raised in an ant farm, I was the biggest one of them all. People would ask, why don’t you look like the others? I ignored them. They hid from me. In my opinion, I was an ant. I was taller and bigger, and to most, scarier. Only my aunt understood, in her petite, fiery red frame. Day after day I spent being ridiculed, until the first of February, a furry ferocious beast attacked our home. My first response: kick. He was gone in an instant. And I, well I had never been swarmed by so many ants.

--Jaclyn Brain

Things are not Always as They Seem

There once was a chicken with feathers. Like a beautiful peacock and a pig snout. Yet, it was still a chicken. The other animals burned her and plucked her because they hated peacock pig chickens. They thought she was different, so they painted her with glue and stuck their dead feathers on her. Now she was just a pig chicken. So the animals sawed her nose with a butter knife, then put a pecker on her face. The next day the butcher chopped her and said, “What a nice slice of meat!” Things are not always as they seem.

--Victoria Howell

My Sister, the Mermaid

My sister is a mermaid. It is very awkward to visit her. We sit on her couch wearing scuba suits, unable to eat. I suppose that is a good thing since all they have is eel and seaweed; not really my cup of tea. I find it hard to spend the night. You sleep like a floating dead body. We have had many a run in with rescue teams (to say the least).

--Victoria Howell


Peter said...

Hi Martha:
Hope to make it to your reading tonight, if the weather isn't too bad!
If not, save me a copy. Can hardly wait to read the new book!
PP (writing from work . . . shhh!)

Martha Silano said...

I hope you can make it, Peter, but I do understand. We will make sure to save you a copy.

Susan Rich said...

Martha, These are superb prose poems. What a testament to your great teaching. Have fun tonight! The snow is falling like crazy in West Seattle at the moment. Be safe -- and happy -- a huge congrats! Susan