Dear Miss Snark,

Having written no less than four apparently inappropriate missives to you, it is with extreme trepidation that I make yet another attempt to request advice. I have found my genre! It is poetic prose, which I am led to believe is quite out of fashion these days. Is there any point in mentioning this category in my query letters if no one is publishing it? Or am I misinformed?

wtf is poetic prose?

EE doesn't know either


yo the dog said...

Surely you're kidding. You've never heard of prose poems? Baudelaire? Rimbaud? Charles Simic?

I mean, come on. You do, ostensibly, work in the field of literature.

To answer the poor soul's question, though no, there is no point in mentioning this in your queries. No one in publishing cares. Look to small independent presses that focus on prose poetics.

nitwitness said...

Once upon a midnight dreary, gin was gone, my eyes were teary,
Over many a query and curious volume of satanic lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a yapping,
As of some one gently scratching, scratching at my chamber door.
"'Tis some doggy," I muttered, " scratching at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Quoth the Yapper, “Walkies! Walkies! For the love of all things holy…I gotta go!”

Um...I could be wrong about this as an example of Poetic prose.

*Sherri* said...

Um...this I don't know what it is but this guy has trademarked it or at least as a little "TM" on his website that says so....


ordinary woman said...

I consider "At the Full and Change of the Moon" by Dionne Brand to be a strong example of poetic prose.

Dear writer - You could check the spine, jacket, etc. of books you consider to be poetic prose to identify possible publishers for your work.

I can't really think of examples of poetic prose that aren't also solidly in the literary fiction genre.

*Sherri* said...

maybe the same as polyphonic prose???


Miss Snark said...

Prose poems and prose poetics aren't poetic prose as far as I know but what the hell do I know.

I do NOT work in the field of literature my little dog. I work in SALES. I leave deconstruction and poetics to the union laborers of 52nd street.

You show me "poetic prose" as a CATEGORY (not a title or subtitle of a book) at Powells.com and we'll have a different conversation.

Anonymous said...

An entry in Usage & Abusage By Eric Partridge, Penguin Books (In association with Hamish Hamilton, copyright 1947, 1969, 1973 (Reprinted 1975) Made and printed in Great Britain by Hazell Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury, Bucks, on page 232, describes it as ...prose that so far partakes of the nature of poetry as to possess the vocabulary...and some of its rhythms. But it is not...metrical...the metrical character should be broken up. It goes on to say in the 3rd paragraph "To those who would essay this difficult and demoded genre, I recommend a study of all the writers I have named; to those names I add those of Shelly, Edgar Allan Poe and the two centuries-earlier Thomas Browne, who sometimes achieves effects unsurpassed by even De Quincey.

Thank you for letting me state my source. I've been told it's not a genre, but Mr. Partridge (et, al) seemed to think it was.

i said the sparrow said...

Just the other day on Evil Editor's blog, I saw a post where someone mentioned having seen the term "Poetic Prose" in Usage and Abusage. This person thought the term aptly described his/her work. Evil Editor had some--erm, snarky?--things to say about the matter. (It was in the posts from March 31)

Manic Mom said...

OK, when I think of poetic prose, I think of Ellen Hopkins' books for YA--CRANK, BURNED, IMPULSE. Beautifully written, in poetry verses that tell a story. Isn't that what poetic prose is?

Also, the memoir called... hang on, let me check my bookshelf, cuz I'm a dork that way...I can't find it, but I think it's called Blue Suburbia?... yep, by Laurie Albanese: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Suburbia-Almost-Laurie-Albanese/dp/B000ENBPN4/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-1464771-0408114?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1175911850&sr=1-1

Tammy said...

I have heard of it in terms of a writting style, but didn't know it was thought if as a genre
Seems the way you are talking it is poetry of some fashion.

Whatever "poetic prose" happens to be exactly, I would not mention it on queries. If the agent thinks they can sell it, they will call it what they need to call it, to get the right attention focused on it.

That really goes for anyone who has some odd mixed genre ms out there too. Don't try to name a genre if you can't name it something widley known, or you simply don't know what it falls into.

Anonymous said...

Going out a limb here, but since I brought it up: I would add J. K. Huysmans (Against the grain),Sartre, James Joyce and Jack Kerouac (On The Road and some others). But I'm no scholar, and would, at times, appear to be better suited to the role of fool.
(...Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous --
Almost, at times, the Fool.) ya'll know by whom
So here is the point, the reason why I even asked: If the current trend is to divide fiction into easily understood categories so that the weak-minded, but wealthy! bookstore patron might assuage his intellectual insecurities, why not have a category that not only sounds "arty" but is, in fact, arty (says so right there above the shelf) and by doing so, perhaps forestall the further aggrandisment of mediocrity (See U& A pg 379-80)so rife in our culture today? Is that such a stupid, fucking, goddamn bad idea, for christ's sake? Perhaps it is, because designating a particular work of fiction as such would require too much of that going out on a limb thing. Yo!Yo the dog -- independent presses are publishers with genetically enhanced scrotums, but that is probably where I'll land (if I ever get my head out of the clouds)
Thank You again Miss Snark for this opportunity to revist a topic that was incomplete on EE's site last weekend.

Miss Snark said...

I'm pretty sure it's complete now.

Ric said...

This whole discussion is very amusing - but then, it's late, and the wine is taking hold.

Squarehead said...

Poetic prose? Or pros..I'm thinking Yogi Bara, maybe Mohammed Ali? You know, pros who sometimes get all poetic. Don't mind me, I'm on my sixth bottle of Killian's Red. Just cracking myself up over here.

Anonymous said...

poetic prose, it's like french. like, yknow, jalousie by robbes-grillet an marie-claire blais (waitaminute, she's french canadian not real french) (an robbe-grillet, that's novels not poetry). yeah so like someone else said, baudelaire. yeah. ok so maybe i'm not real sure about this poetic prose stuff. an what's with the wine an killians, it's all about the martinis.

Joni said...

Uh... would it be rude to suggest that:
a) A book first written in 1947, albeit updated, whew, 30 years ago, is probably not the ideal reference for the marketing of books today?
b) re: "prose that so far partakes of the nature of poetry as to possess the vocabulary...and some of its rhythms" -- hello, isn't it just called really good writing? "images, le bon mot, rhythm to sentences", etc. in the language of us low folk?

ordinary woman said...

Right. Well, I don't think poetic prose and prose poetry are the same thing at all.

But, I defer to the first issue of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, where editor Peter Johnson explains, "Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels."

That should clear it up.

"Where are the clowns? Send in the clowns!"

ordinary woman said...

Look at that. Dionne Brand's book, which I referred to above, is at http://www.powells.com/biblio?show=TRADE%20PAPER:NEW:9780802137234:13.50#synopses_and_reviews

The genre is literary fiction.

Grendel's Dam said...

If this person is serious, I think the umbrella category "literary fiction" would cover it.

Leena said...

Beautifully written, in poetry verses that tell a story. Isn't that what poetic prose is?

Well, if it's in verse, it isn't prose, so I think it would be a narrative poem... and (probably) more specifically a novel in verse - like Pushkin's Evgeny Onegin or Barrett's Browning's Aurora Leigh. (For a very contemporary example of the genre, take a look at this fascinating book by Bernardine Evaristo. It has been waiting on my TBR list for ages; now that I finally decided to look into it, thanks to this discussion, I can't believe I hadn't done so before!)

The best example of poetic prose I can think of is The Waves by Virginia Woolf. Never thought of it as a genre, though, any more than 'first-person narrative' and 'unreliable narrator' are genres. I'd probably just call it 'literary fiction' because that's what it is.

Kit Whitfield said...

If you're having difficulty deciding what to call your genre, then the simplest and best solution is not to mention genre at all. Just say, 'Here is my novel, it is XXX words...' and let the agent worry about what genre it should be described as. (A novel can be anything from Finnegan's Wake to Murder on the Orient Express, after all; the word takes in almost anything.)

Most agents handle a variety of genres anyway, and go on whether they like an individual book, so finding an exact genre description for a cover letter is not an absolute essential. And generally speaking, if the book is hard to define, the broadest definition possible is the one most likely to work for everyone. Just call it a novel and hope the agent likes it.

Good luck...

McKoala said...

yup ric, another glass over here; the rest of ya LOL.

ps please excuse much easter merriment, took me a long time tofind the right keys to even typ ethis. but yup ric, more wine!

McKoala said...

oh man, usage and abusage. Major text at uni. Tossed it out at the last Christmas clearout. Goodbye and good luck!

Anonymous said...

If the author means prose poetry, I think Annie Proulx is the best example of this. She was even taken to the woodshed for it in B.R. Myers A Reader's Manifesto

elfje said...

I can't make much of this discussion, so let me ask a really nitwittery question: Is what people mean by "poetic prose" more like narrative poetry (i.e. poetry that tells a story) some kind of post-modern poetry (i.e. normal prose with spaces in weird places) or some kind of elevated diction (i.e. difficult words, rhythm and alliteration in otherwise perfectly innocent sentences)?

Southern Writer said...

Just a wild guess, but do you have a copy of The Poisonwood Bible handy? If you go to the first chapter in the voice of Adah Price in "Genesis" (in my copy it's on page 30), where it begins, "Sunrise, tantalize, evil eyes hypnotize: that is the morning, Congo pink. Any morning, every morning..." Is that what you mean by "poetic prose?" It's beautiful, isn't it? I loved that chapter, but it would be hard as hell to keep it up for an entire novel. If you did, all I can say is "wow."

I began my novel with something similar, so I'd love to read the first couple pages of yours, if you'll let me. I'll tell you from the get-go, I don't have time for more than that. It's not that I don't want to, just that I simply can't. What do you say - a couple pages?

phoenix said...

To my mind, poetic prose that sells today is a bit more straightforward than the poetic prose of Poe's day. It's prose that pays attention to traditional poetic elements, such as alliteration, assonance, rhythm and internal rhyme. Not narrative poetry or a story told in verse. I've written a couple of category short stories in the style and they were by far harder than the historical and contempory novels I've written or the marketing and tech writing I do to pay the bills.

And yes, they are squarely category fiction. And while the style might define them as more literary, I would NEVER attempt to call them literary fiction.

What we tried to explain to the questioner over on EE's blog last week is that poetic prose is a writing style and not a category or genre. You simply don't market by style. Short-sighted? Perhaps. But that's the way publishing works today and it's up to you to creatively position your poetic prose novel so it gets noticed. As for putting an "art" label on such works, that raises a whole other debate over what constitutes "art," and I daresay most writers will argue that what they create is "art" no matter the style or category assigned.

I'm with southern writer, though. I can't imagine sustaining - or reading - poetic prose for an entire novel. The brain can only take so much.

Anonymous said...

Methinks someone is a bit confused about the difference between publishing and academia.

Anonymous said...

If even a hint of the loathing the author of this post (and, apparently, a book he/she feels the majority of readers are too stupid to understand) feels for many people comes through in the book, it must be a real pleasure.

That was unpoetic sarcasm.

Both in EE and here, the superiority and bile comes through so loud and clear that this person's either destined for obscurity or post-mortem fame.

Anonymous said...

Does the questioner mean "prose poems," or "poetic prose" as in, a Homeric epic or Dante's Divine Comedy? I have to guess the latter, because prose poetry is somewhat in style now. I don't particularly like it; it's very tempermental.

I wish that epic poetry wasn't out of style. I think it would be awesome if somebody published a novel in the style of Dante, Virgil or Homer. (Well, Virgil or Homer... keep the Dantean ego out of it!)

So, if this is serious, do go for it. Bring this style back!

Janet Black said...

Poetic prose . . . claiming to write it is self important, and nitwittish.