House of Your Dream: An International Collection of Prose Poetry
Robert Alexander and Denis Maloney
Robert Alexander has published two books of poetry, What the Raven Said and White Pine Sucker River: Poems 1970-1990.
He edits the Marie Alexander Poetry Series at White Pine Press.
most recent books include The Map is
not the Territory and a translation of the Castle of Castile by Antonia
Machado. He is the founder editor/publisher of White Pine Press.
begged the great and implacable dark to make you better and bring you
home, offering up Babar or Barbie the way I’d offered Raggedy Ann, on
whom I operated, slitting her kapok-filled chest with nail scissors and
digging my fingers in deep for her heart."
Reviewed by Annie Clarkson
I hear you ask, what is a review of a prose poetry collection doing
on The Short Review? This is a site for short fiction, not poetry in
the disguise of short prose…
Yes, The House of Your Dream
is a collection of prose poetry. But a collection that crosses lines
most poetry stays behind. There are narratives, characters, voices,
stories in these pieces of writing. They have the mind of a poem but
the body of prose. They might be fictions or autobiographies, who can
tell apart from the authors? There are ninety authors represented in
this collection, so it would be difficult to ask them all.
Reviews of short fiction collections are scarce, especially for small
presses, but it's even more difficult to find reviews of prose poetry
collections. The content crosses genres: in style and in audience. I'm
writing this review here because many of these prose poems are like
very short fictions, and certainly the kind of writing the audience of
The Short Review might want to read.
Brief, experimental, varied pieces of writing; this collection
represents the many writers that White Pine Press has published over
the years. White Pine is a leading press for prose poetry, having
published many of the leading American prose poets of different
generations. If these names ring any bells, then I'm talking about
Charles Simic, Russell Edson, Pablo Neruda, Robert Bly, David Ignatow,
Nin Andrews, to name but a few.
You can expect almost everything in The
House of Your Dream: tiny vignettes, brief flash fictions,
longer poetic prose. I Remember
Clearly by Imre Oravecz is one sentence crossing onto two pages.
The Sound by
is only dialogue. It is hard to define such vastly different pieces of
writing, but perhaps short epiphanies is a good description; or
"glimpses"; or the poetic musings of people who hone their writing down
to the bare bones, yet give us insights that can leave us pondering for
Take the title piece, for instance, which begins:
"I enter your house with stealth, making sure I'm dressed properly –
checking buttons, the shine on my shoes – trying to look normal because
you say your dreams are so ordinary and I don't want to stand out."
We are central to the action of a character entering another's dream.
It is magical, yet ordinary, this journey we are taken on. However
brief, it resonates with us because of the idea: what we would see if
we could enter the dream of another.
Other stories in this collection
are: a mother dies, a child hits a man in the crotch at a ball game,
some children finding a dead body in a barn, a grandfather returns from
war, a father and husband takes a gun to work and opens fire, a woman
is shot in a store robbery, a man hears the voice of God. The themes
are eclectic, but there is nothing obscure or inaccessible about these
stories. They are everyday thoughts, happenings, observations,
imaginings, fairy tales, and realisations that appear on the page like
dreams. There are slow musing stories, fast-paced writing, and intense
At random, I have picked out these excerpts to give a
flavor of what you might find inside this book: "
I prayed for you – Our Father who art in heaven… Now I lay me down to
sleep – every prayer we knew, our words a useless gabble we wanted to
be true, falling from the small, mint-scented churches of our mouths"
Alison Townshend A Child's Book of
"When I was sixteen, I put on cologne that smelled like chrysanthemums
and let a pornographer take pictures of me sitting in icy water that
made my nipples stick out like chimneys."
Val Gerstle Mom Told Me to
Grow Up and Win the Nobel Prize
"There were nights when it seemed to me your eyes, under which I drew
orange dark bags, were about to ignite their ashes again."
This book is about discovery, not reading cover to cover, but
picking out stories or prose poems that appeal to us in the moment and
PS. The book is designed in an accessible way as well: writers are
arranged A-Z, there is an easy to use index, biographies, a list of
other prose poetry anthologies, a list of books from which some of
these pieces are reprinted, and a good short introduction that explores
the history to this anthology.
|Annie Clarkson is
a poet and short story writer living in Manchester, UK. Her chapbook of
prose poems Winter Hands was published by Shadow Train Books in 2007.
Her short fiction has been published in various anthologies, magazines
and online, including Brace (Comma), Unsaid Undone (Flax Books),
Transmission, Ouroboros Review, Succour, Mslexia, Dreamcatcher, Cake,
and Pank magazine. .