Definitions & Descriptions

Flash Fiction:

  • “simply a story in miniature, a work of art carved on a grain of rice – something of import to the artist or writer that is confined and reduced” (Tara L. Masih)
  • “Flash fiction is about a singular moment, a slice of life, a sketch.” (Nathan Leslie)
  • “I would tentatively define the best flash fiction as short short stories that manage to reveal the hidden, accentuate the subtle, and highlight the seemingly insignificant.” (Pamelyn Casto)
  • “One-page fictions demand an individual lyricism, a musical sound, a rhythm and stress in each phrase… The one-page fiction should hang in the air of the mind like an image made of smoke.” (Jayne Anne Phillips)
  • “highly condensed, yet fully realized narratives. Once a strong storyline is intact, the writer should go about peppering the piece with smart surprises for her reader… Surprise can be, and must be, everywhere… Two effective vehicles for smart surprise are language and image.” (Jennifer Pieroni)
  • “flash does not permit the drawn-out encounter, scene after scene in which the character acts and fails, acts and fails, acts and fails, acts and fails before finally recovering something like knowledge”” (Randall Brown)
  • “what sets it apart, say, from a prose poem, is that the story must turn dramatically, must have a complete reversal of some sort…” (Lex Williford)
  • “It has been traditional to think that a story has to have a “plot” while a poem does not. Plot, in fact, is yearning challenged and thwarted. A short short story, in its brevity, may not have a fully developed plot, but it must have the essence of a plot, yearning.” (Robert Olen Butler)
  • “prose poems can be flashes and flashes can be prose poems. They are interchangeable… in simple general terms, I believe that a prose poem is more about language and poetics, whereas a flash carries more narrative and story.” (Kim Chinquee)
  • “there is room, generally, for no more than two or three acting characters in a work of flash fiction.” (Rusty Barnes)
  • “a novel invites the reader to explore an entire house, down to snooping in the closets; a short story requires that the reader stand outside of an open window to observe what’s going on in a single room; and a short short requires the reader to kneel outside of a locked room and peer in through the keyhole.” (Kate Wilhelm, quoted by Bruce Holland Rogers)
  • “the high rhetoric of sudden fiction: it has a character… there is a dominant action… and what is shown or said happens in time.” (Julio Ortega)
  • “Allusion is key in flash fiction—a way of expanding its borders: an implication via a telling detail, something bigger at stake, hinted at through narrative tone or context, a behavioral tell, a thing said/unsaid—those blank spaces for the reader to fill with imagination. A tacit understanding between writer and reader that there is much to garner between the lines.” (Robert Scotellaro)

Prose Poetry: 

  • “Who among us has not, in his ambitious moments, dreamed of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without meter or rhyme, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of the psyche, the jolts of consciousness?” (Charles Baudelaire)
  • “What is a prose poem? The best short definition is almost tautological. The prose poem is a poem written in prose rather than verse. On the page it can look like a paragraph or fragmented short story, but it acts like a poem. It works in sentences rather than lines. With the one exception of the line break, it can make use of all the strategies and tactics of poetry. Just as free verse did away with meter and rhyme, the prose poem does away with the line as the unit of composition. It uses the means of prose toward the ends of poetry.” (David Lehman)
  • “Poetry of the highest kind may exist without metre, and even without the contradistinguishing objects of a poem” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
  • “[The prose poem is a] means of seduction. For one thing, the deceptively simple packaging: the paragraph. People generally do not run for cover when they are confronted with a paragraph or two. The paragraph says to them: I won’t take much of your time, and, if you don’t mind my saying so, I am not known to be arcane, obtuse, precious, or high-falutin’. Come on in.” (James Tate)
  •  “The prose poem can have this antipoetical, down to earth quality, can stand as a corrective to the excesses to which verse is susceptible.” (David Lehman)
  • “There is a shorter distance from the unconscious to the Prose Poem than from the unconscious to most poems in verse” (Michael Benedikt)
  • “In prose the poet gives up the meaning-making powers of the line break. The poet in prose must use the structure of the sentence itself, or the way one sentence modifies the next, to generate the surplus meaning that helps separate poetry in prose from ordinary writing.” (David Lehman)
  • “Verse and prose are the real antonyms, and the salient difference between them is that verse occurs in lines of a certain length determined by the poet whereas prose continues to the end of the page.” (David Lehman)
  • [Prose poems are where] “the impulses for prose and those for poetry collide… What makes them poems is that they are self-contained, and once you read one you have to go back and start reading it again. That’s what a poem does.” (Charles Simic)
  • “The prose poem is a very special invention, like a chair that flies or a small dish that produces food for forty people. In turning to it the poet seems to put aside the discreet or flamboyant costume of poetic identity and, in a swift and unpredictable gesture, raid the other world, the world of prose, subverting categories and definitions, defying the drag of the prosaic, turning everything inside out for a moment” (David Young)
  • “The appeal of the prose poem, once you are past the initial unlikeliness, the indignation or shock, is in the attraction of a little world made out of everyday materials, unpredictable in its contours and wonderfully satisfying in its paradoxical way of combining suggestiveness and completeness. I once wrote that the distilling and mimicking of the normal behaviour of prose allows prose poems to offer us “life histories reduced to paragraphs, essays the size of postcards, novels in nutshells, maps on postage stamps, mind-bending laundry lists, theologies scribbled on napkins.” My examples are suggestive, but scarcely exhaustive, and they reflect my sense, then and now, that when poetry subverts even its own norms, its dependence on the line of verse for identity, it is probably at its most subversive, opening up possibilities that sound whimsical at the same time that they provoke anger and distrust.” (David Young)
  • “[B]eware, also of prose as a medium; it can seduce you into the dull and the obvious, not to mention the prolix. The prose poem may look easy, as if the poet had gotten lazy, but it is trickier to bring off successfully than the poem.” (David Young)
  • “Like those agricultural margins with their wildflowers, weeds, amphibians and songbirds, the prose poem represents an intersection between crops of another kind: nonfiction, fiction, and poetry…” (Gary L. McDowell & F. Daniel Rzicznek)
  • “The prose poem has the unusual distinction of being regarded with suspicion not only by the usual haters of poetry, but also by many poets themselves.” (Charles Simic)
  • “It may be that by embracing the prose poem I’ve banished myself to some isolated island of misfits, but I find the company compelling.” (Christopher Kennedy)
  • “Prose poetry and flash fiction are kissing cousins. They are kissing on Jerry Springer, knowing they’re cousins, and screaming “So what?” as the audience hisses.” (Denise Duhamel)
  • “The prose poem is an Eastern European running down a dark alley. I’d say he wears a topcoat and a bowler hat. I’d say he hurries to meet a shady doctor who has promised to smuggle him across the border.” (Jeffrey Skinner)
  • “By abandoning the line, all prose poetry does this: it snubs its nose at traditions that preceded it, traditions that, incidentally, encouraged a rational chartering of emotional states (e.g. the rigidly crafted Elizabethan sonnet). (David Keplinger)
  • “Loss and delight cross paths there. The good prose poem is indeed a tension engine.” (David Keplinger)
  • “The prose poem is the most basic example of mixed-genre writing. It’s a response to the earliest division made in human societies between types of language, that between prose and poetry… The prose poem: a genre whose possibility was created at the moment when genre was born, although it took people more than a few centuries to get around to it.” (Mark Wallace)
  • “I see no greater urge in prose poem than in verse poems towards a given aesthetic – surrealism, naturalism, realism, post-structuralism – and I find in prose poetry no innate argument for the unconscious.” (William Olsen)
  • “I sometimes think prose rambles or strays, more efficaciously than verse: it isn’t tied to return.” (William Olsen)
  • “The measure of divisible units in a prose poem is the hybrid stanzagraph. This term is descriptive and will serve. And it sounds better than paranza, which evokes images of carnivorous fish in the Amazon.” (Robert Miltner)
  • “Prose walks but poetry dances. Which is why a prose poem moves so funny on the page.” (Robert Miltner)
  • “The prose poem’s democratic itinerary, its horizontal rather than vertical trajectory, engenders a resistance to hierarchy and to inflation.” (Gary Young)
  • “The box is made for travel, quick and light… One must pack carefully, only the essentials, too much and the reader won’t get off the ground. Too much and the poem becomes a story, a novel, an essay, or worse… The trick to writing a prose poem is discovering how much is enough and how much it too much. It’s a matter of maintaining balance.” (Louis Jenkins)
  • “Also, a prose poem must convince you that it’s a poem. Without obvious indicators, such as white space, a reader must decide for him or herself what the poetic qualities are. Although a prose poem seems formless – seems like it discarded rules altogether – I think a prose poem is as much a product of constraint as a villanelle or sonnet.” (Tung-Hui Hu)

 

Poetry:

  • “Verse reverses – the reader turns at the end of the line – while prose proceeds.” (Richard Howard)
  • “[t]he line of a poem is akin to the shot in film; there is greater chronological and syllogistic potential inherent in the formal structure of the line. The line is accrual by nature.” (Maurice Kilwein Guevara)
  • “Poetry’s work is the clarification and magnification of being.” (Jane Hirshfield)
  • “Poetry’s history is a history of the lyric voice, and prose’s a story of the rational voice, less burdened by the soppy “distortions” of emotional song… we have something of a partition between poetry as a song of the self and prose as the language we use to communicate… To serve the Neoclassical ideal of order, we would restrain this irrational element in our expression. To evoke our Romantic, emotional sense of the world, we would let the irrational breathe freely… The argument between Neoclassic and Romantic was not just about “the proper study of mankind” but also about the appropriate formal container for such study, distinctions between the cummerbund of tight heroic couplets and the unbuttoned blouse of blank verse revealing a preference for, respectively, the tidy beauty of a reasoning mind or the anarchic passion of the unruly heart.” (Amy Newman)
  • “Poetry remains our most concise, affecting and memorable way of speaking. It allows us to say the things that move us most deeply and stay most fixed in our minds.” (Dana Goia)
  • “Poetry is language in orbit.”  (Seamus Heaney)
  • “Poetry is memorable speech.” (W.H. Auden)
  • “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” (Emily Dickinson)
  • “prose; words in their best order; – poetry; the best words in the best order.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
  • “A good poem should work in the mind, in the heart and in the ear. The reader has a right to expect these three things simultaneously.” (Douglas Dunn)
  • “The trouble with prose is that revising it is endless, whereas a poem comes right with a click like a box.” (Yeats)
  • “A poem that does its work must stand on the knife edge of yes and no.” (Dorianne Laux)
  • “… the very life of verse is the contrast between fixity and flux… either by taking a very simple form, like the iambic pentameter, and constantly withdrawing from it, or taking no form at all, and constantly approximating to a very simple one.” (T.S. Eliot)
  • “Poetry is a form of breaking into song.” (Lavinia Greenlaw)
  • “Prosody – metrics – etc are fascinating – but they all come afterwards, obviously.” (Elizabeth Bishop)
  • “I believe content determines form, and yet that content is discovered only in form.” (Denise Levertov)
  • “Somebody once said that a poem shouldn’t just tell you not to play with matches, it should burn your fingers.” (Simon Armitage)
  • “Poetry’s what’s left between the lines – it’s all in the unwritten, it’s all in the unsaid.” (Charles Wright)