From Periodics 3 (Fall 1978 ).
6 / 9 / 77
Dear Paul (Kahn),
We’ve had these two terms, prose & poetry, for a long time now & the question really seems to be whether they’re relevant any longer to the kinds of writing now being written. Yet there’s no point in blurring, for the sake of some notion of the avantgarde, actual experienced distinctions & I know that writing a long ongoing line (which I take to be the basis of prose (prosa, forward) whether or not some people use periods where others would use commas) is distinct for me from writing a series of short ones which, tho they vary in actual length, always seek to return to the pole of that left margin. The
distinction (for me) has to do with the way in which language in poetry plays with silence or its own absence: each word radiates multiple possibilities, pure potential in the silence surrounding it that is then closed down into manifest direction by that which follows it. The direction of thought in prose seems more linear to me, perhaps because it moves in larger units, phrases or clauses (& poetic prose is that prose where the insistence of the word as singular moves against or across the more normal prose thrust forward—a very complex music, counterpoint), & doesn’t stop to hear the silence. In prose, normally, words fill the page & create a surface that is all language.
— Daphne Marlatt