Wednesday, October 30, 2013

URSP Student Evelyn Seay Uses the Prose Poem as Narrative and Lyric Intersection

I became interested in my prose poetry subject through course my mentor, Eric Pankey, offers by that name. I first heard about it through one of his former MFA students and the idea of poetry in paragraph form was so strange that I knew I had to try it for myself. While beginning the project, I thought that simply defining prose poetry and writing some poems would not be enough. So, I added a thematic element and the goal to create a small chapbook.

The theme came to me through family history. I am distantly related to a famous imagist poet, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) since her daughter, Perdita, married my great-uncle. I became curious about my connection with these famous women and began asking my grandmother and mother questions about our relatives.

My endeavors were met with conflicting information. For example, my Grandmother remembered that my Great Uncle Johnny and Perdita’s editing business in New York mostly worked with cook books. Through his obituary in the NY Times, I found that he did edit books for James Beard, an extremely famous chef. He also edited for Ray Bradbury, who wrote Fahrenheit 451. Needless to say, my impressions of Uncle Johnny changed pretty quickly. Amazed with how memory changes family history, I knew that this family history and memory element would serve as the joining thread for my prose poetry project.

To make the project successful, I am reading anything I can get my hands on. In addition to poetry and prose poetry, I am researching other related documents, such as photographs and letters, every week. Along with works by H.D. and Perdita Schaffner, I am reading poets who have undertaken projects with similar themes and techniques. I write 2-4 poems every week and work on editing.

At project’s end, I hope to have a chapbook-length manuscript, about 20 pages. In a very competitive pool of Masters of Fine Arts hopefuls, this kind of project will help set me apart from other students, whether or not I get published. On a deeper, more personal level, this is helping my writing tremendously. The process reminds me why I love poetry and gives me intellectual energy every week.