A few years ago, reading through issues of the now-defunct sentence: the journal of the prose poem started me thinking about the prose poem in terms of difference between Canada and the United States. As much overlap as our two countries have, the evolution of the nebulously-termed “prose poetry” has been different, and yet, at least on this side of the border, the form hasn’t been (for what I’ve been able to find) much explored in terms of possibility, genealogy and influence. Back in May 2012, as a prelude to composing a possible essay to explore the subject, I sent out an email to a variety of individuals, and even a couple of list-serves, seeking information:
Mary Caroline Richards spent time at Black Mountain College, formed and lived on a Long Island commume from 1954-1964, wrote poems about pottery and published a book about centering in the 1960s that received a lot of attention, was a long-time friend of John Cage. When Cage did an academic year at Wesleyan University in 1960-61, he used his leverage there to arrange a poetry reading for Richards. PennSound has only one recording of M.C. Richards — made at Indre Studios in Philadelphia on May 5, 1997.
One of the poems she performed on that occasion was "For John Cage on His 75th Birthday": MP3.
On December 12 and 13, 1979, Robert Creeley hosted Kathy Acker at SUNY-Buffalo. He introduced her and in two sessions she read from her work and engaged with Creeley on conversation. PennSound now offers, in addition to the whole recording, segments by topic and work:
Until I looked at Sophia Le Fraga’s “W8ING 4 ,” I never really thought of seeing the lines of a “text” on a phone as lines of a poem. Since I love the look of poetry, the visual arrangement of words on a page, it seems silly that I didn’t see those parallels until now.
There is a lot to look at in “W8ING 4 .” The rows of emoji leap out at me with sentimental feeling. They make me think of sticker collections, tiny patterns on cotton dresses, little parts of Joe Brainard paintings. They are buttons, digital and tender.
The human figure Le Fraga’s texters are waiting foris abstract, grey, and genderless, which means it could represent a man. But the poem the texters create together is animated by a girly liveliness: notes in bubbles, all the “likes,” the instant transmission of intimacy, the slangy surface of their writing, the big-hearted depths. “I was starting to think you/ were gone forever.” “W8ING 4 ” is the girlification of Godot.
“W8ING 4 ” goes fast. As the poem unfolded and the letters of the alphabet flashed up before my eyes my attention was sucked into the condensed world of the screen.