Poetry Form - The Prose poem

The Prose Poem Form
by J. Zimmerman.

* History. * Form. * Craft guideline (Gary Young). * Your Composition. * Exercises. * References.

Do you feel constrained by line breaks? Then the prose poem may be the form you need.


The King James Version of the Bible contains much that is prose poetry.

Historically, the fable and the parable are genre prose poetry.

In France the nineteenth century Baudelaire and Rambeau built on folk tales.

Recently in the U.S.A., Louis Jenkins is praised for his prose poems, as is Gary Young. Robert Bly is often more successful in his prose poems than elsewhere, and Russell Edson is an applauded writer of odd miniature prose poems with warped family dynamics.


Prose is the ordinary language that people use in speaking or writing. It does not treat the line as a formal unit. It has no repetitive pattern of rhythm or meter.

In a prose poem:

Poet Gary Young has a very concise approach to prose poems. In an October 2006 craft workshop, his guidelines included:


Poet Gary Young suggested some writing exercises for prose poems during his October 2006 craft workshop:

Your Composition.

Here are some steps to take in creating a Prose poem:

  1. Free-write for a couple of pages. Or go for a walk and ponder some memories or experiences, perhaps triggered by some of the suggested prose poem writing exercises. Follow leaps that catch your attention.

  2. Read through what you wrote and highlight two or three phrases. Do this mentally if you are working off the page. Use what you select as a basis or one of the exercises above to start writing without line breaks.

  3. If you want internal rhymes and slant rhymes and alliteration, work on including those as you write, or during the early stages of revision.

  4. Cut out anything that is not essential. Do this increasingly strongly as your revision progresses.

A Last Word.

Just because you start with the intention of writing a prose poem, you do not have to keep your poem in that form if it does not work for you. Your attempt to write in this form may help you find words that you would not have found otherwise. Ultimately you may decide that your poem is served better by a different form, perhaps a haiku, perhaps a sestina.


[Thanks for visiting.]