Once, I knew a fine song,
—It is true, believe me,—
It was all of birds,
And I held them in a basket;
When I opened the wicket,
Heavens! They all flew away.
I cried, “Come back, little thoughts!”
But they only laughed.
They flew on
Until they were as
poems & poets
Once, I knew a fine song,
When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me
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
letter poem, epistle: A kind of letter in poetry. The verse epistle, as it was once called, is a poem specifically addressed to a friend, a lover, or a patron. In his Epistles (20–14 B.C.E.), Horace established the type of epistle poem that reflects on moral and philosophical subjects. In his Heroides (ca. 25–16 BCE), Ovid established the type of epistle poem that reflects on romantic subjects. They are fictional letters from the legendary women of antiquity (Helen, Medea, Dido) to their lovers. Horace’s letters on the art of poetry, known since Quintilian as the Ars Poetica(ca. 18–19 BCE), are also verse epistles, and so are Ovid’s poignant poems of exile, Tristia (9–12 C.E.).
Ovid’s Heroides particularly influenced the troubadours and their poems of courtly love, which are shaped as love songs from a distance. The Horatian epistle had a lasting influence throughout the Renaissance and the eighteenth century. There are Petrarch’s Epistulae metricae (1331–1361) in Latin,
elegy: A poem of mortal loss and consolation. The word elegy derives from the Greek élegos, "funeral lament.” It was among the first forms of the ancients, though in Greek literature it refers to a specific verse form as well as the emotions conveyed by it. Any poem using the particular meter of the elegiac couplet or elegiac distich was termed an elegy. It was composed of a heroic or dactylic hexameter followed by a pentameter. Here are two lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Elegiac Verse” (1882):
So the Hexameter, rising and singing, with cadence sonorous,
Falls; and in refluent rhythms back the Pentameter flows.
There were elegies, chanted aloud and traditionally accompanied by the flute, on love (amatory complaints) and war (exhortatory martial epigrams) as well as death. But, as Peter Sacks puts it, “Behind this array of topics there may have lain an earlier, more exclusive association of the flute song’s elegiacs with the expression of