Great American Prose Poems

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A prose poem is a poem written in prose rather than verse. But what does that really mean? Is it an indefinable hybrid? An anomaly in the history of poetry? Are the very words "prose poem" an oxymoron? This groundbreaking anthology edited by celebrated poet David Lehman, editor of The Best American Poetry series, traces the form in all its dazzling variety from Poe and Emerson to Auden and Ashbery and on, right up to the present. In his brilliant and lucid introduction, Lehman defines the prose poem, summarizes ...

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Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present

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A prose poem is a poem written in prose rather than verse. But what does that really mean? Is it an indefinable hybrid? An anomaly in the history of poetry? Are the very words "prose poem" an oxymoron? This groundbreaking anthology edited by celebrated poet David Lehman, editor of The Best American Poetry series, traces the form in all its dazzling variety from Poe and Emerson to Auden and Ashbery and on, right up to the present. In his brilliant and lucid introduction, Lehman defines the prose poem, summarizes its French heritage, and outlines its history in the United States. Included here are important works from masters of American literature, as well as poems by contemporary mainstays and emerging talents who demonstrate why the form has become an irresistible option for the practicing poet today. Great American Prose Poems is a marvelous collection, a must-have for anyone interested in the current state of the art.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743243506
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 230,234
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lehman, series editor of The Best American Poetry, is also the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. His books of poetry include New and Selected Poems, When a Woman Loves a Man, and The Daily Mirror. He teaches in the New School graduate writing program and lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents


[organized chronologically by year of poet's birth]

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

"Woods, A Prose Sonnet"

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849

"Shadow — A Parable"

Emma Lazarus, 1849-1887

"The Exodus (August 3, 1492)"

Amy Lowell, 1874-1925

"Red Slippers"

Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946

22 "Objects" from Tender Buttons

William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

Three Improvisations from Kora in Hell

H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), 1886-1961




T. S. Eliot, 1888-1965


e. e. cummings, 1894-1962

"i was sitting in mcsorley's"

Jean Toomer, 1894-1967

"Calling Jesus"

Thornton Wilder, 1897-1975


Hart Crane, 1899-1932

"Havana Rose"

Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961


Ruth Krauss, 1901-1993


Edwin Denby, 1903-19832

W. H. Auden, 1907-1973


Elizabeth Bishop, 1911-19792
"12 O'Clock News"

Czeslaw Milosz, 1911-

"Be Like Others"

Kenneth Patchen, 1911-1972

"In Order To"

"Delighted with Bluepink"

"The Famous Boating Party"

Delmore Schwartz, 1913-1966


David Ignatow, 1914-1997

"I sink back upon the ground..."

"The Story of Progress"

Barbara Guest, 1920-


James Schuyler, 1923-1991

"Two Meditations"

"Wonderful World"


Kenneth Koch, 1925-2002

"On Happiness"

"The Allegory of Spring"

"The Wish to Be Pregnant"

Robert Bly, 1926-

"The Hockey Poem"

"Warning to the Reader"

"A Rusty Tin Can"

"One Day at a Florida Key"

Allen Ginsberg, 1926-1997

"A Supermarket in California"

James Merrill, 1926-1995

Three Poems from "Prose of Departure"

Frank O'hara, 1926-1966

"Meditations in an Emergency"


John Ashbery, 1927-

"Whatever It Is, Wherever You Are"

"Haibun 6"

"A Nice Presentation"

"Disagreeable Glimpses"

"Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland"

W. S. Merwin, 1927-

0 "Humble Beginning"

"The Dachau Shoe"

"Our Jailer"

"The Lonely Child"

James Wright, 1927-1980

"On Having My Pocket Picked in Rome"


John Hollander, 1929-

"The Way We Walk Now"

"Crocus Solus"

"Not Something for Nothing"

Harry Mathews, 1930-

Three Entries from 20 Lines a Day

Mark Strand, 1934-

"In the Privacy of the Home"

"Success Story"

"From a Lost Diary"

"Chekhov: A Sestina"

Michael Benedikt, 1935-

"The Doorway of Perception"

Russell Edson, 1935-

"A Performance at Hog Theater"

"The Pilot"

"The Taxi"

"The Rat's Tight Schedule"

"The Canoeing Trip"

"The New Father"

Rosmarie Waldrop, 1935-

Five Poems from The Reproduction of Profiles

Charles Simic, 1938-

Three Poems from The World Doesn't End

"The Magic Study of Happiness"

"Contributor's Note"

Margaret Atwood, 1939-

"Women's Novels"

"In Love with Raymond Chandler"

Frank Bidart, 1939-

"Borges and I"

Fanny Howe, 1940-

"Everything's a Fake"


Tom Clark, 1941-

"Death, Revenge and the Profit Motive"

Billy Collins, 1941-

"Five Fondly Remembered Passages from My Childhood Reading"

Robert Hass, 1941-

"A Story About the Body"

"In the Bahamas"

"Tall Windows"

Lyn Hejinian, 1941-

Three Sections From My Life

Joe Brainard, 1942-1994



Louis Jenkins, 1942-


"Appointed Rounds"

"The Prose Poem"

Ron Padgett, 1942-

"Light as Air"


Michael Palmer, 1943-

"A word is coming up on the screen..."

James Tate, 1943-

"The Second Greatest Story Ever Told"

"Same Tits"

"The List of Famous Hats"

"Distance from Loved Ones"


"Bernie at the Pay Phone"

Paul Violi, 1944-



John Godfrey, 1945-

"So Let's Look At It Another Way"

Bernadette Mayer, 1945-

"Visions or Desolation"

Alice Notley, 1945-


Ira Sadoff, 1945-


Anne Waldman, 1945-


Terence Winch, 1945-

"Shoot the Horse"

B.J. Atwood-Fukuda, 1946-

"The Wreck of the Platonic"

Andrei Codrescu, 1946-

"De Natura Rerum"

"Secret Training"


Rae Armantrout, 1947-


"Middle Men"

"Imaginary Places"

Michael Burkard, 1947-

"A Conversation About Memory"

Lydia Davis, 1947-

"The Thirteenth Woman"

"In the Garment District"


Aaron Fogel, 1947-

"The Chessboard Is on Fire"

Yusef Komunyakaa, 1947-

"Nude Interrogation"

"The Hanoi Market"

"A Summer Night in Hanoi"

Maureen Seaton, 1947-

"Toy Car"

"Lateral Time"

Leslie Scalapino, 1948-

"That They Were at the Beach"

Tom Whalen, 1948-

"Why I Hate the Prose Poem"

Agha Shahid Ali, 1949-2001

"Return to Harmony 3"

Lynn Emanuel, 1949-

"inside gertrude stein"

Kit Robinson, 1949-

"The Person"

Charles Bernstein, 1950-

"Comraderie turns to rivalry..."

Anne Carson, 1950-

"On Waterproofing"

"On Orchids"

"On Hedonism"

"On Shelter"

Carolyn Forché, 1950-

"The Colonel"

James Richardson, 1950-2

"Vectors: Thirty-six Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays"

John Yau, 1950-


"Summer Rental"

Peter Johnson, 1951-

"Pretty Happy!"


Maxine Chernoff, 1952-

"His Pastime"

"Vanity, Wisconsin"

"The Inner Life"

Rita Dove, 1952-

"Kentucky, 1833"

Carla Harryman, 1952-

"Magic (or Rousseau)"


Mark Jarman, 1952-


Mary Ruefle, 1952-


Killarney Clary, 1953-

"Because the ones I work for..."

"Life is boundless..."

Fran Carlen, 1954-

"Anna Karenina"

"Anal Nap"

Thylias Moss, 1954-

"An Anointing"

Tyrone Williams, 1954-

"Cold Calls"

Harryette Mullen, ?-

"Variation on a Theme Park,"

"The Anthropic Principle"

"Sleeping with the Dictionary"

Susan Wheeler, 1955-

"Invective: You Should Know"

April Bernard, 1956-


Amy Gerstler, 1956-

"Dear Boy George"

"Bitter Angel"

"The Bear-Boy of Lithuania"

arDionisio D. Mart Ínez, 1956-

"Avant-Dernières Pensées"

Catherine Bowman, 1957-

"No Sorry"

Wang Ping, 1957 -

"Of Flesh and Spirit"

Nin Andrews, 1958-

"Notes on the Orgasm"

"Always Have a Joyful Mind"

Michael Friedman, 1960-




Stephanie Brown, 1961-

"Commencement Address"

Denise Duhamel, 1961-

"A Nap on the Afternoon of My 39th Birthday"

Christopher Edgar, 1961-

"In C"

Campbell Mcgrath, 1962-

"The Prose Poem"

Linh Dinh, 1963-

"Fish Eyes"

"The Most Beautiful Word"

Claudia Rankine, 1963-

"Intermission in Four Acts"

Gabriel Gudding, 1966-

"A Defense of Poetry"

Joe Wenderoth, 1966-

Twelve Epistles from Letters to Wendy's

Lisa Jarnot, 1967-

"Still Life"


Karen Volkman, 1967-

"It Could Be a Bird"

"When Kiss Spells Contradiction"

Mark Bibbins, 1968-

Two Poems from "Blasted Fields of Clover Bring Harrowing and Regretful Sighs"

Richard Blanco, 1968-

"Mango, Number 61"

Jennifer L. Knox, 1968-

"Hot Ass Poem"

Richard Deming, 1970-


Anselm Berrigan, 1972-

"The Page Torn Out"

Katherine Lederer, 1972-

"According to the Appetites"

Andrew Zawacki, 1972-

Two Poems from Masquerade

Jamey Dunham, 1973-

"An American Story"

Matthea Harvey, 1973-

"The Crowds Cheered as Gloom Galloped Away"308

Sarah Manguso, 1974-

"What We Miss"

Jenny Boully, 1976 —

"He appeared then..."

Notes on Contributors


Index of Poems

Index of Poets

Copyright © 2003 by David Lehman

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted January 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A great exposition to a little known genre

    I've always enjoyed reading short stories, but over the years I've started to appreciate their form more than their plot-lines, and a careful and insightful use of language became something I increasingly valued. The first time I came across a prose poem, although I did not know it was called that at the time, was a translation of Czeslaw Milosz poem by Robert Pinsky. I was immediately fascinated by it, but I thought it was just something characteristic Milosz's style. Many years later I came across this book, and I was instantly drawn to it. I've read it and re-read it many times. It contains some of the best prose poems out there, and it helped me discover some new poets that I would have otherwise not known about. Based on that, I am adding new books to my Amazon wish list on a continuing basis. It's definitely worth buying and reading.

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