Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.) Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive
poems & poets
Place its toothpicked pit in water, watch the grist
of its insides grow. Witness its populous bloom,
honeycombed with rough. Its cobblestones grip
the heart in its mitt, a closed fist thickened
and gritty as silt. The swamp of the plumb beat
adamant as weeds. The dish
Though the name of the form may appear to be a contradiction, the prose poem essentially appears as prose, but reads like poetry. In the first issue of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, editor Peter Johnson explained, "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."
While it lacks the line breaks associated with poetry, the prose poem maintains a poetic quality, often utilizing techniques common to poetry, such as fragmentation, compression, repetition, and rhyme. The prose poem can range in length from a few lines to several pages long, and it may explore a limitless array of styles and subjects.
Though examples of prose passages in poetic texts can be found in early Bible translations and the Lyrical Ballads of William Wordsworth, the form is most often traced to nineteenth-century French symbolists writers. The advent of
nature poetry, nature in poetry: The natural world has been one of the recurring subjects of poetry, frequently the primary one, in every age and every country. Yet we cannot easily define nature, which, as Gary Snyder points out in his preface to No Nature (1992), “will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions” and “will dodge our expectations and theoretical models.” Yet the urge to describe the natural world — its various landscapes, its changing seasons, its surrounding phenomena — has been an inescapable part of the history of poetry. Wendell Berry provides a simple useful definition of nature poetry as poetry that “considers nature as subject matter and inspiration.”
Our concepts of nature are relative, historically determined. The nature poem is affected by ideology, by literary conventions as well as social and cultural ideas. Raymond Williams contends, “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” The term nature is itself contested now because it
doha: This common Hindi form is a self-contained rhyming couplet. Each twenty-four-syllable line divides into unequal parts of thirteen (6, 4, 3) and eleven syllables (6, 4, 1). A sortha, an inverted doha, transposes the two parts of the line. The simple form of the doha, which conveys an image or idea in two verses, has made it especially useful to describe devotional, sensual, and spiritual states, as in the mystical poetry of Kabir (1440-1518) and Nanak (1469-1539). It often has a proverbial feeling. Goswami Tulsidas employed dohas to adapt the Sanskrit epic Ramayana (fifth to fourth century B. C. E.). His Ramcharitmanas (sixteenth century) are as well known among Hindus in northern India as the Bible is rural in America.
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Excerpted from A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch. Copyright © 2014 by Edward Hirsch. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.