Tuesday, August 29, 2023

IAN MARTIN : (further) short takes on the prose poem

folio : (further) short takes on the prose poem





a prose poem is like a brick, which lady gaga infamously said could build a house or sink a dead body. it’s a hefty thing. all the earthy ingredients swirl together and harden into something both unremarkable and essential. prose poems make me think of tumblr, where the “text post” format was one of the primary artforms – people would use it to write jokes, diary posts, short stories, poems, whatever – and they would all just pile up on your feed in a stack of white bricks of various heights. you had witty observations, funny diary entries, full escapist fantasy worldbuilds, experimental bits, all in one or maybe a couple of run-on paragraphs. you had people writing as personas, as themselves, as a persona and as themselves simultaneously… i would read the equivalent of a novel a day of text posts and i loved it. totally jumbled together and all over the place but you start to see connections between them, both intentional and not.

my favourite prose poems use repetition and rhythmic tricks to make up for a lack of line breaks. a brick of text can be intimidating and dense at first blush. at the same time, it’s just a paragraph. maybe two. i guess you could make a long prose poem. what i tend to like about poetry is that it’s short. surrounded by a lot of white space. given room to breathe and bleed and expand. and it’s fun sometimes to pack all of this dense complicated bloody mess into a nice neat little justified paragraph. feels like you have some sort of control over it. (shades of Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s “Can’t Help Myself”.) and over time these text bricks pile up into a house. and now it’s big and solid and look at all you’ve accomplished. and with the leftover bricks you can build a little TV stand with them or throw them through a window. or whatever! they’re your bricks.

prose poems can read as more immediate, less filtered than more formatted poetry. like they sort of spilled out of you like little wet chunks of meat. i do edit and tighten my work before it goes anywhere but i guess it’s just a little trick. something that evokes an unaltered stream of consciousness. most of my prose poems are introspective and personal. it feels like a very confessional form to me. a little bundle of feelings i slip into the stream and then it’s gone. we’re trained by social media to watch a stream of little disconnected paragraphs and pick out the ones we like. all these little bricks that build up who we are and what we know. or destroy it. or just sit around unused in a construction lot while the grass grows around them.








Death is the one transaction you can’t contest. when it happens, everyone can tell. you won’t be there to hear but they’ll gossip on how you spent it. if you paid your dues. even pre-twitter it was all about receipts. we’re ill-equipped for the ecstatic let-down of Death. we’re hung up on the origin story. how it plays to an audience. how it sells. how they remake Spiderman every fiscal year. we want new. we want more. Life is a volatile stock, a bed of spikes that bears our bodies forward. if only i’d sold at the right time, or the next right time, or the next. Death is a release but post-nut clarity’s a bitch. Big Death has a monopoly and the mom-and-pop Deaths suffer. i don’t want them to go under but i need a refund. i got the money shot but i keep needing boosters. they want new. they want more–







IAN MARTIN is a writer and game designer and person of interest. IAN’s work has recently appeared in Not Your Best, Touch the Donkey, Arc Poetry Magazine, canthius, Neutral Spaces and The Puritan. IAN has published six chapbooks, most recently EVERYONE IS MY ENEMY. Hang ten and ride the digital wave at [IANMARTIN.ROCKS].

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