• Carrie Etter

Finishing The Shooting Gallery, and Thinking about Prose Poetry Series and Sequences

This week I finished a draft of my chapbook manuscript, The Shooting Gallery, after roughly six months of work. As I mentioned in a previous post, it began with my responding in prose poems to Czech surrealist transgender artist Toyen's series of twelve line drawings, The Shooting Gallery (1940). I found them both intriguing and unsettling and thought the prose poem ideal for exploring them. There were recurring images of childhood and the destruction of war, and after composing poems in response to maybe half the drawings, it occurred to me that I associated that conjunction of youth and violence with US school and university shootings. That realisation led to a second series of prose poems on such shootings, many of which try to evoke a kind of drawing or painting about a particular shooting in words.

Working on this chapbook has led me to think more about prose poetry series and sequences and how they operate. Probably my favourite prose poetry sequence is Rosmarie Waldrop's White Is a Color (Guillemot, 2017), which tells the story of a man's fall and slow recovery in short, taut lyrics; that is to say, individually the prose poems work as lyric poems, and their order presents a narrative.

In my book Imagined Sons, I didn't want a narrative so much as explorations of what it is to be a birthmother that together would aggregate to create a nuanced portrait. The sequence is narrative, while the series is montage.

I aspire one day to compose a prose poem sequence, but I wonder if, given that I also write short fiction, whether now that is where I take my ideas for narrative. I suppose only time will tell.

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