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Response & Bio Marisela Treviño Orta
Question #) No matter how disjunctive it may be, a lineated poem is in lines; it does stack up. Prose poems however, spiral or buzz around a numinous center. While one may get very close to that center point in the act of writing the poem, one never quite touches it. For me, the ‘ambiguity’—and the freedom—of the prose poem lies in its delicacy of nuance, its slamming together of seemingly unrelated elements, its ability to approximate the mystery without quite revealing it—all of which provide the tension that makes the form so effective.

I began writing prose poems over two years ago while searching for a form that best suited my narrative tendencies as a poet. Most of my poems are fragmentary moments or meditations with an overarching narrative subtext that unites them rather than complete stand-alone narratives. However, my Double Room submission is a slight departure from my other work and I have a feeling it is opening a door for me, pushing me into new poetic landscapes.

I find Alison Townsend’s description of the prose poem as spiraling or vibrating around a center close to my own view of how the prose poem operates. Its compact nature, the blocks of text, the absence of line breaks, raises the question whether it is poetry or just rows of sentences. I see the prose poem as a sort of poetic particle accelerator, charging language as the other prosodic elements contend with the absence of the line.

Something akin to the four senses heightening with the loss of the fifth, I find the other prosodic elements creating tension and rhythm that the line would have provided if the poem had been lineated, however the tension created is unique to the prose poem and cannot be recreated with line breaks. The absence of the line also allows the energy of the language to propel forward as phrase builds on phrase, a sort of kinetic energy that drives and pulses and swirls.

Even the white space around the prose poem is charged, a silenced filled with the unspoken—a poem’s subtext—or simply the calm that contrasts with the energy of the poem. The white space interacts differently with prose poems than with free verse or other lineated forms. It is a silent partner that frames the poem and like the carefully designed architecture of an orchestra hall, allows the poem to reverberate and resonate with the reader.


Marisela Treviño Orta is a poet, playwright, an editor for the online literary journal Switchback and El Teatro Jornalero!’s Resident Poet. Her work has appeared in BorderSenses, Curbside Review, Pomona Valley Review, Red River Review, 26: A Journal of Poetry and Poetics and Traverse. Her first play Braided Sorrow was read at the 2005 Bay Area Playwrights Festival in San Francisco where she lives, works and writes.