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By Margueritte S. Murphy

From its inception in nineteenth-century France, the prose poem has embraced a classy of outrage and innovation instead of culture and conference. during this suggestive learn, Margueritte S. Murphy either explores the heritage of this style in Anglo-American literature and offers a version for studying the prose poem, regardless of language or nationwide literature. Murphy argues that the prose poem is an inherently subversive style, person who needs to forever undermine prosaic conventions on the way to validate itself as authentically "other". even as, every one prose poem needs to to some extent recommend a conventional prose style as a way to subvert it effectively. The prose poem is hence of distinct curiosity as a style within which the conventional and the hot are introduced necessarily and regularly into clash.

Beginning with a dialogue of the French prose poem and its adoption in England through the Decadents, Murphy examines the results of this organization on later poets equivalent to T.S. Eliot. She additionally explores the notion of the prose poem as an androgynous style. Then, with a sensitivity to the sociopolitical nature of language, she attracts at the paintings of Mikhail Bakhtin to light up the ideology of the style and discover its subversive nature. the majority of the booklet is dedicated to insightful readings of William Carlos Williams's Kora in Hell, Gertrude Stein's gentle Buttons, and John Ashbery's 3 Poems. As impressive examples of the yank prose poem, those works show the variety of this genre's radical and experimental probabilities.

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Extra info for A tradition of subversion: the prose poem in English from Wilde to Ashbery

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His inclusion of foreign vocabulary emphasizes their exoticism, while his use of archaisms further heightens the reader's sense of their remoteness. This tendency enhances their eccentricity, lending them the air of museum pieces, or of imported, bizarre trinkets. Thus, these prose poems seem "foreign" (which was undoubtedly part of their allure for some readers), and they lack articulated morals or tight, clear conclusions, which Howells felt was "uncommon" in English poetry. Yet these prose poems often do express some message or meaning through description or narrative highly charged with significance, that is, used symbolically.

And no "great" original prose poems appeared in English, nothing so revolutionary or accomplished as Rimbaud's Illuminations, nothing so admired as Pater's passage on the Mona Lisa. Yet, one might argue that the French tradition could continue to inspire the next generation of poets; certainly we find Pound and Eliot turning to French poets and other French forms for models. We might, then, consider other forcessocial or "extraliterary"that may have come into play in discrediting the prose poem.

Instead, illusion and ambiguity have the last word. Many other prose poems simply end with a question. The tenor of Stuart Merrill's translation also affects their overall tone and configuration. First of all, he is a careful translator, respecting the original vocabulary and sentence structure almost too closely. If we examine an excerpt from one of the first prose poems in the volume, Bertrand's "Mon bisaïeul" ("My Great-Grandfather"), we find nearly a word-by-word translation, evidence of Merrill's reluctance to alter these texts: Bertrand's original (the first three paragraphs): Les vénérables personnages de la tapisserie gothique, remuée par le vent, se saluèrent l'un l'autre, et mon bisaïeul entra dans la chambre,mon bisaïeul mort il y aura bientôt quatre-vingt ans!

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