Pamelyn Casto


From Casto’s recent chapbook Flash Fiction: A Primer
now in release by O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press.
(Download the free PDF version.)

This is a selection of some of the many anthologies, collections, and instruction books I have explored during my years of exploring prose poetry. All of these are interesting and all are certainly worth reading and studying.

The Muses’ Garden by Lionel Noel Royer


The Party Train: A Collection of North American Prose Poetry. Robert Alexander, Mark Vinz, and C.W. Truesdale, Eds. New Rivers Press, Minneapolis, MN, 1996. Contains prose poems by Lafcadio Hearn, Jean Toomer, Kay Boyle, Nelson Algren, Lorna Crozier, Diane de Prima, Stuart Dybek, Carolyn Forche, Diane Glancy, Donald Hall, David Ignatow, Mary A. Koncel, Ira Sadoff, Karl Shapiro, Alison Townsend, and many more.

Models of the Universe: An Anthology of the Prose Poem. Stuart Friebert and David Young, Eds. Oberlin College Press, Oberlin, Ohio, 1995. A few of the many writers included are Gertrude Stein, Aloysius Bertrand, Ivan Turgenev, Arthur Rimbaud, Sherwood Anderson, Max Jacob, Franz Kafka, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Hans Arp, Pierre Reverdy, Jorge Luis Borges, Francis Ponge, Julio Cortazar, James Wright, Zbgniw Herbert, Italo Calvino, and Tomas Transtromer.

The Best of the Prose Poem: An International Journal. Peter Johnson, Ed. White Pine Press, Buffalo, NY, 2000. Some of the many writers include Holly Iglesias, Gray Jacobik, Robert Hill Long, Peter Markus, Michael Martone, Henri Michaux, Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Pierre Reverdy, John Yau, C. D. Wright, and Barry Silesky.

No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets. Ray Gonzales, Ed. Tupelo Press, Dorset, Vermont, 2003. Authors are Nin Andrews, Robert Bly, John Bradley, Killarney Clary, John Davis, Linda Dyer, Russell Edson, Amy Gerstler, Ray Gonzalez, Maurice Kilwein, Guevara, Juan Felipe Herrera, Louis Jenkins, Peter Johnson, George Kalamaras, Christine Boyka Kluge, Mary Koncel, Morton Marcus, Campbell McGrath, Harryette Mullen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Simic, Karen Volkman, Liz Waldner, and Gary Young.

PP/FF: An Anthology. Peter Connors, Ed. Starcherone Books, 2006. Some of the many writers included are Stuart Dybek, Kim Addonizio, Lydia Davis, Brian Evenson, Diane Williams, Laird Hunt, Joyelle McSweeney, Christina Milletti, Harold Jaffee, Jessica Treat, Darryl Scroggins, Kent Johnson, Harold Jaffee, Kenneth Bernard, and Eleni Sikelianos.

The Modern Japanese Prose Poem: An Anthology of Six Poets. Dennis Keene, Ed. (and translator). Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1980.  The writers are Miyoshi Tatsuji, Anzai Fuyue, Tamura Ryuichi, Yoshioka Minoru, Tanikawa Shuntaro, and Inoue Yasushi. This anthology has been out of print but The Princeton Legacy Library makes it available again.

 Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present. David Lehman, Ed. Scribner Poetry, New York, NY, 2003. Provides fine essays on object poems, fables, flash poems, aphorisms, list poems, essayistic works, and epistolary poems, hybrid poems, and more. Just a few of the many writers included are Gertrude Stein, Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Milosz Czelaw, Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Koch, James Merrill, John Ashbery, W. S. Merwin, Michael Benedikt, Mark Strand, Rosmarie Waldrop, Charles Simic, Robert Hass, James Tate, Alice Notly, Andrei Codrescu, Lydia Davis, Anne Carson, Maxine Chernoff, Sarah Manguso (and many others).

An Introduction to the Prose Poem. Brian Clements and Jamey Dunham, Eds. Firewheel Editions, Danbury, CT, 2009. Includes the work of Daryl Scroggins, Campbel McGrath, James Merrill, W. S. Merwin, Francis Ponge, Margaret Atwood, Rachel Loden, Marvin Bell, Christian Bok, Russell Edson, Mark Halperin, Max Jacob, Tateo Imamura, Jess Lee Kercheval, N. Scott Momaday, and Frank O’Hara (and many others).

A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly. Peter Johnson, Ed. MadHat Press: Cheshire, MA, 2019. Filled with prose poems and mini-essays written by the authors of the prose poems. A few of the numerous writers included are Kim Addonizio, Nin Andrews, Michael Benedikt, Robert Bly, Maxine Chernoff, Kim Chinquee, Brian Clements, Peter Connors, Michel Delville, Denise Duhamel, Stuart Dybek, Russell Edson, Ray Gonzales, Daniel Grandbois, Louis Jenkins, Peter Markus, Robert Hill Long, Mary Ruefle, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Gary Young.


These are various collections I’ve explored and often recommend them to other writers.

Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire. Translated from the French by Louise Varèse. New Directions Books: New York, 1970.

Tender Buttons: Objects Food Rooms by Gertrude Stein. Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York, 1997.

Short Talks by Anne Carson. Brick Books, London, Ontario, 1992.

A Book of Fables by W. S. Merwin. Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, Washington, 2007. This wonderful collection combines Merwin’s two collections: The Miner’s Pale Children and Houses and Travellers. These pieces blur the distinction between poetry, essays, and fiction and manage to blur the distinction between genres as well.

The World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic. Simic won a Pulitzer Prize for this in 1990. Most of the prose poems are less than a half page long. A Harvest Book: Harcourt Brace & Company, San Diego, New York, London, 1989.

Dome of the Hidden Pavilion: New Poems by James Tate. Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), New York, 2016.


The American Prose Poem: Poetic Form and the Boundaries of Genre by Michel Delville. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 1998. Peter Johnson says about this book: “Excellent . . . the only critical book on pose poetry that not only provides a historical background for the prose poem in English, but also focuses on contemporary American prose poets.”  Some of the many writers and movements Delville looks at include Gertrude Stein and the Expatriate Avant-Garde, Popular Modernism and the American Prose Poem: From Sherwood Anderson to Kenneth Patchen, Contemporary Trajectories, and The Prose Poem and the New Avant-Garde.

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice. Gary L. McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek, Eds. This book is filled with essays on prose poetry from such writers as Maxine Chernoff, Nin Andrews, Ray Gonzalez, Bob Hicok, Denise Duhamel, Christopher Kennedy, and many others. It contains many example prose poems as well.

A Tradition of Subversion: The Prose Poem in English from Wilde to Ashbery by Marguerite S. Murphy. University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. Murphy takes a look at the prose poem as a decadent and subversive genre and pays particularly close attention to some of the work of William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and John Ashbery.

History Matters: Contemporary Poetry on the Margins of American Culture by Ira Sadoff. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2009. Sadoff’s chapter on prose poems is outstanding (the entire book is interesting). Some of the prose poets he mentions include Claudia Rankin, Jean Day, Russell Edson, Gertrude Stein, Zbignew Herbert, Anne Waldman, Lyn Hejinian, and Diane Williams.


About the writer:
Pamelyn Casto, twice a Pushcart Prize nominee, has published feature-length articles on flash fiction in Writer’s Digest (and in their other publications), Fiction Southeast, and Writing World (and elsewhere). Her essay on flash fiction and myth appears in Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips From Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field and her 8,000-word essay on flash fiction is included in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading (4 volumes). She also has a 5,000-word article on flash fiction as the lead article in the new book Critical Insights: Flash Fiction. Subscribe to her free online monthly FlashFictionFlash newsletter (first issue published in 2001) for markets, contests, and publishing news for flash literature writers. Casto is an Associate Editor at O:JA&L.

Image: The Muses’ Garden by Lionel Noel Royer (1852-1926). Oil on canvas. 31.8 x 39 3 inches. No date specified. Public domain.