Mesa Arizona Poetry by Cynthia Rider can be found by visiting where her poetry is complemented by her professional photography, illustrations and artwork. Cynthia J. Rider is a Mesa, Arizona poet and fine artist

Is there really such a thing as


If so, what are the "rules" for writing it?  


While most of us are struggling to understand free-verse, up pops this new thing called "prose-poetry."   Well, it really isn't new... just new to this generation poets. 

These battles with free-verse, rhymed poetry and prose-poetry are old ones. Because they are arguments without a strong resolution,  they keep showing up. 

We know how to create a  rhyme scheme, write a haiku or a sonnet, but what about this hybrid we call prose-poetry?  What are the rules?  They have yet to be completely defined and will probably continue to evolve throughout the years.

 I have read so many of what I consider prose-poems over the past year or so,  that I feel as if a large gray area of poetry is trying to emerge. I am not even sure what my criteria are, anymore for placing poems in their "categories" . 

While some forms have strict rules, and are very clearly traditional or near enough, there is a growing area of new poetry struggling to be noticed that does not fit neatly in a pigeon-hole of definition.

 I have read many articles written on the prose-poem.  There is a tendency to try to place poems into generally accepted categories- but they often have sharp corners that cannot be rounded into the existing forms.   

Can we grow to recognize and to reward the visionary poet who succeeds in breaking all the rulesif indeed there are any rules and creating a new form?  How can we recognize this new form when we see it? How can we tell when it is Prose-Poetry or just a naive author making a claim to this new form? 

I think one test may be within the poet that writes using this form.  Is this their only form, are they consistent in their delivery using this form?  Do they write in any traditional forms and are those attempts successful? 

 I believe, like the abstract art movement, there will never be a full resolution on this issue.  Some would say that abstract art is meaningful only if the artist knows and can carry out realism, successfully.  To them, only then, can the artist skillfully 'break the rules' and create a successful abstract. 

Similarly, in poetry, should one know and be able to carry out the basic traditional forms of poetry successfully before breaking the rules?   Does an abstract painting have as much meaning if created by an elephant with a brush in his trunk as with an artist full of knowledge, hopes, desires and dreams?   Many would say not, although I do find it interesting to see these animal paintings! But that is another story!

How can we critique this new form of poetry, especially when many don't even want to accept that it exists?  Does it really exist, or is it just a cop out to writing the "real" stuff?  Whatever that is. Even though this 'prose-poetry' genre is growing by leaps and bounds there are many that profess it is not real poetry nor will it ever be.

Is it poetic snobbery to say that you must understand traditional poetry before you can 'break the rules' with prose-poetry? I don't think so, people are just struggling to find something tangible by which to judge this new form.

It is very hard to defend prose-poetry... for every sentence you use to define it, there are two more 'traditional' thoughts that come up in contradiction!

I think of prose-poetry in relation to the bumble bee... they say that scientifically, he doesn't meet the requirements to fly.  But he doesn't know he can't fly and thus, off he goes, happily buzzing from place to place! 

Similarly, this form of poetry fights against the mainstream beliefs. It flagrantly flaunts all traditional "rules" of poetry and flies in the face of purists. It is a literary hybrid. It is a combination of many ingredients that when combined make an interesting result. This end result is unpredictable and as varied as the writers that tackle it. 

I have struggled to define it many times.  Some think it is a result of those who don't have the skill to follow one of the more traditional poetic forms.  Yes, I have thought this a time or two myself.  Perhaps at times this may indeed be the case. But beyond that... it is a valid form, albeit ever evolving and elusive to pin down. 

I have noted several threads of truth that have found their way into every article I have read on this issue.  And that is that prose-poetry is not simply prose, i.e. :  the spoken word... especially the way we speak now with all of our clipped shortcut words and slang.

It is more the type of prose you would find in a formal speech.  One that has not metered rhythm, but natural rhythm.  

Prose-poetry flows smoothly, the thoughts are connected. It creates clear images, meaning and intent. 

It is not a half-way mixture of slang, some rhyme, strict meter combined with no meter... jerky flow etc.

Yes, there are things that these poets do adhere to.  They have a good grasp of the language and of previous forms of poetry.  They make their choices for their prose-poetry, based on this pre-existing knowledge.

Does it sound like a story, but has too many poetic elements to be just a straight out story?  You are probably reading prose-poetry!