Pizza Poetry Blog Post #6: Prose Poems

Teachers: Want to incorporate Pizza Poetry into your classroom, but not sure where to get started? From now until April 7th, we'll be posting bi-weekly poetry writing prompts here on our blog! Remember, anyone ages 6-18 in Greater New Orleans can submit poetry to be published on a pizza box. And don't forget: the deadline to submit poetry is April 7th.

Prose Poetry

A prose poem is a poem written in sentences. Often, it appears as a block of text and resembles a paragraph more than a typical metered poem. A prose poem however, is not a story, focusing more on  the characteristics of poetry, such as poetic meter, language play, and images.

Prose poems first appeared in 19th Century France as an act of rebellion. Poets like Charles Baudelaire and Aloysius Bertrand wanted to protest the predominance of the Alexandrine metered line and the typical content that followed it. Breaking out of metered form, they wrote in a block of text that resembled prose, but behaved like poetry.

Many prose poems are written in second person, meaning the poet is addressing somebody or speaking to them.The second person uses the pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours.” Often second-person prose poems resemble letters or postcards.

Below are two examples of prose poems written in second person. Now, it’s time to try writing your own prose poem. Think about WHO you want to write your prose poem to and what you want to say!  Remember, you’re still writing a poem so imagery, devices and rhythm are important!


from Citizen, I

By Claudia Rankine

A woman you do not know wants to join you for lunch. You are visiting her campus. In the café you both order the Caesar salad. This overlap is not the beginning of anything because she immediately points out that she, her father, her grandfather, and you, all attended the same college. She wanted her son to go there as well, but because of affirmative action or minority something—she is not sure what they are calling it these days and weren’t they supposed to get rid of it?—her son wasn’t accepted. You are not sure if you are meant to apologize for this failure of your alma mater’s legacy program; instead you ask where he ended up. The prestigious school she mentions doesn’t seem to assuage her irritation. This exchange, in effect, ends your lunch. The salads arrive.

A Supermarket in California

Allen Ginsberg, 1926 - 1997

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
 In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
 What peaches and what penumbras!  Whole families shopping at night!  Aisles full of husbands!  Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

 I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
 I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops?  What price bananas?  Are you my Angel?
 I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
 We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

 Where are we going, Walt Whitman?  The doors close in a hour.  Which way does your beard point tonight?
 (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
 Will we walk all night through solitary streets?  The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
 Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
 Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

—Berkeley, 1955