History of Prose Poetry

History

Poetry. The simple word strikes fear into the hearts of school kids everywhere. Mostly because when taught in school, teachers and professors want to analyze why the author chose the words instead of just reading the words for the enjoyment. True, there must be some sort of lesson or way to gauge the students understanding of the poetry, but how do you do this without alienating them from poetry completely. Truth is, eyewear publishing will tell you that while people point to the studying of poetry in school as a reason to why they dislike it, most of them will admit to liking music. That power ballad heard on the local classic rock station, poetry; that rap song playing to on the radio, poetry. In fact, poetry supersedes written text and dates back as far as 2500 B.C.E. Many scholars believe poetry was used to convey history from one generation to the next. Through its use of rhyming, the stories were easier for the people to remember. Poetry is also closely related to musical arts in that the earliest forms of poetry where hymns or chants used to tell stories of hunting, politics, or spiritual beliefs. There is a type of poetry that exists that is often overlooked due to the style in which it is written, prose. Allow us to explain below.

Style

Much like music, when people think of poetry they think of styles like sonnets, limericks, and lyrical. The reason is due to their use of rhyming couplets. Whether they are represented by A-A-B-B, A-B-A-B, or

A-A-B-B-A makes no real difference. It is easy to recognize and identify the pattern and therefore easily noted as “poetry.” Often mistaken for free verse, prose poetry has a set of rules attached to it that focuses more on repetition, rhythm, and emotion as opposed to free verse which can often contain fully rhymed or partially rhymed sections but has no identifiable iambic measure. Prose poetry dates back the 19th Century when French poets like Victor Hugo (largely know for his non-poetic works such as Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) and Paul Verlaine were bold enough to challenge the dominance of metered line poetry.

Example

Prose poetry looks much like the above text but acts more like poetry. A great example of this would be Dream Fugue by Thomas De Quincey seen in part here:

Passion of Sudden Death! that once in youth I read and interpreted by the shadows of thy averted signs!* Rapture of panic taking the shape which amongst tombs in churches I have seen, of woman bursting her sepulchral bonds—of woman’s ionic form bending forward from the ruins of her grave with arching foot, with eyes upraised, with clasped adoring hands—waiting, watching, trembling, praying, for the trumpet’s call to rise from dust for ever!—Ah, vision too fearful of shuddering humanity on the brink of abysses!

As you can see, there are no rhyming couplets, no alliteration, no real way to tell the difference between it and a normal paragraph, save for the fact of the choice of words. They are poetic in nature, focusing on the senses.

Conclusion

This is just one of many styles of writing we will be showcasing as well as delving into different poets from throughout history. In later editions, we will discuss such stylistic writings such as haikus, limericks, and epic poems; poets like Sappho, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Frost.