All right. The problem is that there is no new problem. —John Ashbery, “The Recital”
What I really want to know is how this will affect me, make me better in the future? Maybe make me a better conversationalist? —John Ashbery, “The Ice Storm”
If criticism today urges opening with an apology for what could not be taken into consideration, it also recommends self-reflection when concluding, though of a different sort. Amid the summaries, the clarifications, and the tying together or unraveling of loose ends, some parting remarks on methodology are de rigueur, and a gesture at least should be made toward that sometimes refreshing, sometimes devastating question, “So what?” In the introduction I asserted that understanding prose poetry as a genre means exploring the interpretive consequences of what has been called the poème en prose or prose poem, as if it were a genre. At a minimum, more needs to be said about my emphasis on “interpretive consequences” and the skepticism lurking in the phrase “as if it were a genre.” For reasons that will become clear in the telling, a brief look at French and Anglo-American anthologies of prose poetry provides a convenient way of exploring these and other issues that need to be addressed in conclusion.
The most striking fact about prose-poem anthologies in French is their scarcity. Suzanne Bernard lists only two anthologies in her encyclopedic study: Maurice Chapelan's Anthologie du poème en prose (1946, reprinted in 1959) and Guillaume and Silvaire's selection in the second volume of Poésie vivante (1954). 1 The latter is a small journal devoted to contemporary poets, the former an almost four hundred—page book covering more than a century of prose poetry and providing an introduction on the history and aesthetics of