The Expanse: Self-Consciousness and the Transatlantic Prose Poem
Kennard, Luke Nicholas
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This work consists of a portfolio of creative work in the form of verse and prose poems, The Dusty Era, preceded by a thesis, ‘The Expanse: Self-Consciousness and the Transatlantic Prose Poem’, arguing for a serious analysis of humour within the form of prose poetry. Chapter 1 introduces the form of prose poetry and the idea of self-consciousness as methodology through the book-length prose poem In Parenthesis (1937) by David Jones. Chapter 2 concerns Seamus Heaney’s Stations and Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns, two prose poem sequences from the early 70s, both of which cite In Parenthesis as their primary influence. The works are discussed in terms of their reactions to Jones, arguing that they largely excise self-consciousness in favour of poetic self-mythology and aggrandisement, whereby the events of a poet’s life are elevated to the significance of historical events. The chapter concludes by looking at Heaney’s recent return to the form in his 2006 collection District and Circle. In Chapter 3 John Ashbery’s Three Poems is read alongside Samuel Beckett’s novel The Unnamable and through Martin Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology. Antecedents are sought in the prose poetry of Baudelaire and Kafka and the parallel themes of judgement and Christian imagery are traced through Three Poems and W. H. Auden’s The Orators. In Chapter 4 the process poetry of The Orators leads to the identification of a hybrid form, the poem-as-essay (or essay-as-poem), analysed through the work of Canadian poet Anne Carson, whose prose poetry simultaneously complements and subverts her research as a classicist. Chapter 5 concerns the English poet John Ash, in particular his technique of inverting his standard poetic voice within his travelogue prose poems. This is traced back to Bashō’s 16th century travelogues, as self-conscious and self-referential as anything which is today classed as postmodern. In conclusion the thesis assesses the work of Lee Harwood as a poet who encapsulates the central arguments of self-consciousness, humour and transatlanticism within his prose poetry while remaining stylistically unaffiliated with a specific movement.
PhD in English