Posts Tagged ‘prosavers’

Louis Esterhuizen. Oor poësie, prosa en prosaverse

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013


Verlede naweek, tydens Montagu se Breyten Breytenbach Boekefees moes ek praat oor die problematiek van tyd in die poësie en hoe ek dit in my bundel Wat die water onthou (2010: Protea Boekhuis) gereflekteer het. Tydens my navorsing vir dié geleentheid lees ek toe ‘n besonder interessante artikel, “Is it poetry or prose?“, deur Caleb Murdock op raak; ‘n artikel wat nie veel te make gehad het met my praatjie nie, maar wel heelwat te sê gehad het oor poësie, prosa en die sogenaamde ‘prosavers’.

Caleb se openingsparagrawe lees soos volg:

Prose and poetry are two sides of the same coin.  Both of them communicate ideas, and both of them can be written beautifully.  But the essential purpose of prose is to communicate ideas, and the essential purpose of poetry is to move us with the beauty of its crafted language, and in this distinction the two diverge.  Prose is communication; poetry is art.  When a reader is moved by prose, he is moved primarily by its meaning.  Of course, the distinction between poetry and prose can be blurred.  Prose can be written with extra attention to its beauty, in which case it is called “poetic prose”; and poetry can be written with extra attention to its meaning, in which case it is called “prosaic poetry”.  But the essential distinction remains.

What are the ways that poetry can be crafted?  The poet has a limited number of tools, and they are pretty specific:  metaphor, simile, parallelism, line breaks, enjambment, alliteration, consonance, assonance, form (stanzas, sonnets, etc.), rhythm, meter, internal rhyme, and end rhyme (I may have left out a few).  But what of poetry that has almost none of these elements – is it poetry?  I think the answer to that is more than just semantic.  In the past century, the one century in all of English-language history in which free verse was the dominant form, poetry lost much of its audience.  When an art form devolves to the point where it no longer contains the elements that define it, we have to question whether the result is art or something else.

Hierna volg ‘n beknopte, dog indringende kyk na die ontwikkeling van die vrye vers en hoe dit uiteindelik aanleiding gegee het tot meer amorfe versvorme soos die prosavers, onder andere. Gaan lees gerus die volledige artikel vir dié oorsig en ook Murdoch se kommentaar.

By wyse van lusmaker plaas ek graag die volgende aanhalings:

“The best poems, in my view, contain a high number of poetic elements, and rhythm is the most important of them.  More than any other quality, rhythm distinguishes poetry from prose.”

“I think the reason that such prosaic poetry has become so prevalent is that anyone can write it.  It is a method by which people without poetic talent, or without a true love of the sound of poetry, can express their private feelings in a public manner […] But the prosaic style misses the point of poetry altogether, which is to create beauty with words.  Such poetry can only be read for its meaning, not its beauty.”

“I believe that this prosaic style, which lacks almost all poetic elements, is the natural evolutionary end-result of free verse.  When you remove the most important elements from poetry (form and meter), all the remaining elements become expendable […] As long as poets take the word ‘free’ to mean ‘without’ (as in, without rhythm, without rhyme, without alliteration, etc.), then free verse will be doomed to disintegrate into prose.”

“Practitioners of the prosaic style have convinced themselves that the sound of metered language is unpleasant.  They view it as an anachronism, a throwback to artificial formality.  But Frost, Francis, Auden and Roethke showed us that metered poetry can be informal and accessible. Meter is what gives a poem its structure and momentum; it carries the reader forward to the poem’s conclusion (imagine song lyrics without the melody and you will see what I mean).  Without meter, long poems lose their coherence – unless they are written in the loose cadence of prose.  And this brings us to another reason why modern free verse has degenerated into prose:  free verse cannot be sustained over long passages without losing its integrity, whereas prose can be.  In other words, if a poet writes his poems in prose, he can write longer poems.”

“I find more grand and phony sentiments in prosaic poetry than in metered poetry, and I think I know why:  The language itself is so mundane that the poet has to find some other way to move his audience, so he resorts to sentimentality (or drama or other similar techniques).”

As leestoegif volg ‘n toepaslike gedig deur Archibald MacLeish; ‘n gedig wat ook deur Caleb Murdoch aangehaal word in sy artikel “Is it Poetry or Prose?” en waarna hy verwys as waarskynlik “the most beautiful free verse poem ever written”.


Ars Poetica

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit.

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown.

A poem should be wordless
as the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees.

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true:

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

© Archibald MacLeish



Charles Simic oor prosaverse

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Charles Simic

Charles Simic

Die nuutste uitgawe van Poetry International Web is verlede week geplaas en uiteraard fokus dit uitsluitlik op die jaarlikse poësiefees wat Vrydag, 11 Junie, in Rotterdam begin. Op hul webblad is daar heelwat inligting oor die fees en ook skakels, onder andere na ‘n Feesblog, beskikbaar.

Soos ek reeds vantevore berig het, fokus die fees vanjaar op die raakpunte tussen prosa en poësie. Volgens die begeleidende dekbrief is dit nie so maklik om die onderskeid tussen prosa en poësie te tref nie:  “We might associate rhyme, metre and verse forms with poetry; and yet most people acknowledge that these aren’t prerequisites of poetry. Do other factors, then, such as diction, tone, narrative, length and syntax differentiate between what is poetry and what is prose? Some may argue simply that prose is written in paragraphs and poetry line by line, but, as much of the writing in this issue proves, this observation can not be applied to prose poetry, a genre that has embraced the use of the paragraph.”

‘n Besonder interessante essay is egter Charles Simic se kontekstualisering van die sogenaamde “prosavers”. Simic, wat nie net ‘n kenner van dié genre is nie, maar ook in 1990 die Pulitzer-prys vir poësie verwerf het met sy bundel prosaverse, The World Doesn’t End, is uiteraard een van die belangrikste kommentators oor dié onderwerp. Sy openingsparagraaf lees soos volg: “Prose poetry has been around for almost two centuries and still no one has managed to explain properly what it is. The customary definitions merely state that it is poetry written in prose and leave it at that. For many readers, such a concept is not just absurd but a blasphemy against everything they love about poetry. Free verse, of course, still has its opponents, but no one in their right mind would maintain that all genuine poetry must adhere to rhyme schemes or regular meters. It’s an entirely different matter when it comes to prose poetry.”

Oor sy eie prosaverse het hy die volgende te sê: “The hardest thing for poets is to free themselves from their own habitual way of seeing the world and find ways to surprise themselves. That’s what I liked about these pieces. They seemed effortless and, like all prose poems, came, as James Tate once said, in ‘deceptively simple packaging: the paragraph’. They were unpremeditated, and yet they could stand alone and even had a crazy logic of their own.”

Die kern van sy essay is egter die volgende paragraaf: “I would have placed emphasis on the subversive character of prose poetry. For me, it is a kind of writing determined to prove that there’s poetry beyond verse and its rules. Most often it has an informal, playful air, like the rapid, unfinished caricatures left behind on café napkins. Prose poetry depends on a collision of two impulses, those for poetry and those for prose, and it can either have a quiet meditative air or feel like a performance in a three-ring circus. It is savvy about the poetry of the past, but it thumbs its nose at verse that is too willed and too self-consciously significant. It mocks poetry by calling attention to the foolishness of its earnestness.”

Met die lees van hierdie essay het ek egter opnuut besef dat Charl-Pierre Naudé en Danie Marais inderdaad korrek is wanneer hulle die stelling maak dat die sogenaamde “praatvers” of “anekdotiese vers” wat hulle bedryf, hoegenaamd níks met die tradisionele “prosavers” te make het waarmee dit dikwels verwar word nie. En die verskil lê rondom die veelgeroemde enjambement, klankplastiek en verskuiwende ritmepatrone wat dit myns insiens volledig aan die poësiekant van die draad plaas in teenstelling tot die prosakant waarvan Charles Simic se vers hieronder van getuig.

Of wat praat ek nou?!


Vanoggend is daar sommer weer heelwat nuwe inhoud op die webblad om jou aandag op te fokus: Yves T’Sjoen skryf insiggewend oor die peritekste by K. Schippers,  Leon Retief vertel van Robert Currie, ‘n besonderse digter van Moose Jaw waar hy woon, Francilié Hoek besin oor die vele soorte brood wat meel tot gevolg het, Andries Bezuidenhout loop in die voetspore van sy voorsate en Desmond Painter gaan in Havana op soek na die John Lennon Park.

Alles pure leesplesier. So – geniet dit …

Mooi bly.



Blue Notebook Number 10

There was once a red-haired man who had no eyes and no ears. He also had no hair, so he was called red-haired only in a manner of speaking.
He wasn’t able to talk, because he didn’t have a mouth. He had no nose, either.
He didn’t even have any arms or legs. He also didn’t have a stomach and he didn’t have a back, and he didn’t have a spine, and he also didn’t have any other insides. He didn’t have anything. So it’s hard to understand
who we’re talking about.
So we’d better not talk about him anymore.

© Charles Simic (vertaal deur: George Gibian)