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Poetry Pairing: The Babies and Prose Poems

It’s the first day of National Poetry Day, so what better day than today to post a new poetry pairing?

I’ve been devouring everything I can find about prose poems lately. I’ve been writing a lot of them, too. A couple of weeks ago, I asked people to share their favorite prose poems on Twitter, and while I had a few people favorite my tweet, only one person responded–but that’s ok–because he then graciously sent me a link to a poem of the poet whose prose poems he so loves. And now I want to share it with you:

“The Babies” by Sabrina Orah Mark 

Here are the last few lines of this stunning poem:

…One night when I was working on a piece I thought I’d call Symphony, Symphony, the shapes began to slip out of my hands. At first, as Mrs. Greenaway remembers, the sound of broken glass. Then the trumpets. Then the terrible music of all those babies I once seemed to be suddenly having, marching, like soldiers, in rows. Then their round wet bellies coming towards me. Mrs. Greenaway still talks about how expertly they gathered me into their tiny arms. And how they took me away not like a prisoner. But like a mother. Into a past I still swear I never had.
And then because I loved this poem and wanted to read more of Sabrina Orah Mark’s work, I googled her name + prose poems and happened upon this gem of an essay:
This Does Not Mean the Same as Disappearance, an essay on prose poems by Sabrina Orah Mark at Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry & Opinion
The prose poem is a home where everything is in exile, and where exile is where everything belongs. It is a home where emanation and limitation (or retreat and propagation) share the same breath. A haunted home because there is a feeling that someone has been here once before.
In this closing of this essay, Orah Mark writes, “And it’s in the prose poem where the stuffing can become again alive.” Enter her poems.
Do you have a favorite prose poem? Any thoughts you’d like to share on prose poetry?
Don’t forget that I’m giving away 2 free poetry books this month! One of them is a collection of prose poems.
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11 thoughts on “Poetry Pairing: The Babies and Prose Poems

  1. Hi Andrea Beltran, (any relation to major league baseball player Carlos Beltran :). I live in Santa Fe and after visiting Superstition [review], where I’ll have poem appearing next month, I was getting updates from your blog I guess after looking at your work in that publication, must have clicked on something. And I think you’re living in the southwest too, or maybe it was a connection from Facebook, can’t recall. Anyway, here’s the only prose poem I ever wrote. It appeared in Lilies and Cannonballs Review in NYC a few years back. Maybe you like :), maybe you don’t like 😦
    Best wishes, Ed

    Ed Adams

    Effect of the Speech

    An auditorium rife with heads and noise. Persons known locally escort the featured speaker down the aisle. Each step taken muffles another portion of the crowd, and soon, locus of buzzing, they settle into front row chairs.

    The master of ceremonies recites the record of publications and awards. He ranks the speaker high, among the top practitioners in her field, present or past. Detecting in her latest work a synthesis of yin and yang principles, he declares her avowed fondest hope, that of her efforts promoting international justice, a fait accompli. He ends by mentioning the privilege and the pleasure afforded him in presenting her here this evening.

    The featured speaker walks across the stage to an ovation. She stops to fill a cup with water, takes a sip, then steps to the podium amid anticipatory adjustments, quickly finished sentences, and coughs.

    She tells them, “You are all sycophants.”

    She tells them, “You must scrutinize
    the most abject of pebbles
    the way you have scrutinized
    my every movement
    here this evening.”

    At the reception, the guest of honor directs the host’s attention to a painting situated above the baby grand. Large, gray, abstract, the painting features a bruise-colored bulge at its middle. “Has it a title?” she wonders, “Mute, maybe.” The host replies, “It’s title–your guess is poetically cognate–The Pillow. An actual pillow stitched

    into the canvas accounts for the protrusion.” “Hmm,” the guest of honor muses, “but it’s fascinating: the presence of beauty in what is generally thought repulsive, the tumor. Conversely, the appearance of what is homely, even obtuse, in what is ordinarily considered beautiful. Look around you,” she prods, “certain young women, for instance.” They laugh, and step through an open glass panel into the yard.

    In the yard, guests on their knees pass a magnifying lens. The guest of honor reaches in and intercepts. Lifting the lens above her head, she announces, “It is a lollipop,” lowers it to her face and pretends to lick. The examiners are dumbfounded.

    Then one, inclining his head, tosses gravel into his mouth. “Raisins,” he mumbles. “No, they’re peas,” insists another, clutching fistfuls. A third plops a few pebbles into his drink. “Ice cubes,” he says, saluting, then sips. Yet a fourth steps from her shoes, cuffs the legs of her slacks, and wades. Bending at the waist holding tweezers, she secures a pebble, draws it to her lips, and nibbles. “Fish eggs,” she informs, “do try.” “Attention everyone,” invites a voice. The owner of this voice un-crouches to a standing position. At his feet sits a pyramid, still under construction, almost complete. Ants lug the stones.

    There are murmurs of surprise, utterances of amazement. Then, as a smattering of uncertain applause builds to an all-inclusive and appreciative clapping of hands, even punctuated with whistles, he is presented the lens. He accepts it proudly, and takes a triumphant bite of the lollipop.

    Champing in happy transport amid gasping, looking from face to face, he realizes with slowing jaw that all stare at him horrified. He touches moisture on his chin, lowering his finger to look at blood. Scanning miserably, then, the onlookers, and sensing within their horror glee, he closes his eyes. Swallows wincing. His consciousness going dark is slipped this thought, “You made an indelible impression.” And indeed, for the watchers, it was sure to be a memorable evening. Though for now most everyone was preoccupied with procuring for the gentleman medical attention.

    • Hi Ed, thanks for sharing your fascinating poem. I read it with Tori Amos’ song “Shattering Sea” playing it the background; it makes for quite the soundtrack for your poem. I look forward to reading your poem in Superstition Review next month. I hope it’s not blowing in Santa Fe the way it is here in El Paso!

  2. I saved that essay to read again, thank you. The first prose poems I remember loving were Francis Ponge’s. And I think Rilke. And then I found Russell Edson’s stuff. And yes, Simic, like Jessie said. Still looking for a good Ponge link….

    • I read Ponge’s The Nature of Things a couple of months back and loved it. His work is unlike any I’ve encountered before. I need to read more Rilke.

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