Broken forms: prose poetry as hybridised genre in Australia
journal contributionposted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Paul Hetherington, Cassandra AthertonCassandra Atherton
Traditional literary genres, such as the novel, lyric poetry and short fiction have been at the centre of Australian literary practice since European colonisation. Increasingly, however, Australian creative writers are making use of narrative and poetic forms that do not sit comfortably within accepted genre classifications. They are doing so partly in order to respond to their encounters with fragmentation and multivalency and to register the disparate, the diverse and the ‘broken’ in postmodernity. It is possible that contemporary culture requires such literary forms in order to speak truthfully about the crises at the heart of modernity centred on identity, the interpenetration and mixing of cultures, and the need to find authentic ways of speaking. One form that crosses and destabilises genres is the prose poem. Prose poetry enables intimate lyrical gestures to be joined to a limited narrative discursiveness and signals that the ‘prosaic’ and the ‘poetic’ are frequently bound together. In doing so, it challenges assumptions about what may be ‘said’ in writing, and whether much of human experience in the twenty-first century may best be expressed through the creation of ‘in-between’ literary spaces (and associated tropes of absence and indeterminacy), rather than through traditional generic models. Using examples from contemporary Australian prose poets, this paper demonstrates the way in which Australian prose poetry prioritises spaces of uncertainty and anxiety to rework the British and American canon and make its own identity.