Departmental Bulletin Paper Beyond the Prose Poem : Sarah Manguso’s Manipulations of Genre

Cy Mathews

Vol.23pp.105 - 117 , 2015-03-30
Once seen as a subversive and even illegitimate genre, prose poetry had become increasingly accepted by critics and scholars as a legitimate literary genre. With this acceptance, however, the subversive experimental energies of the form have been effectively neutralised. In this article I examine the work of the contemporary American writer Sarah Manguso, positioning it within the critical context of prose poetry as outlined by theorists such as Jonathan Monroe and Steven Monte. I argue that the movement in Manguso’s work from verse poetry towards a generically ambiguous form of prose constitutes a response to what Monroe has termed the broader “crisis of acceptability” in which contemporary prose poetry finds itself. By expanding her texts beyond the conventional boundaries of prose poetry, I argue, Manguso has demonstrated how the genre’s subversive potential can be revitalized. She has also created a body of work that resists easy interpretation and categorization on both stylistic and thematic levels, challenging its readers to question both the assumption they make about texts and the relationships that exist between individual works in a writer’s oeuvre.

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