This paper takes up Nikki Santilli’s lament about the scarcity of scholarship on the prose poem in English to analyse two key features of prose poetry: fragmentation and closure. This paper argues that the prose poem’s visual containment within the paragraph form promises a complete narrative while simultaneously subverting this visual cue by offering, instead, gaps and spaces. Such apertures render the prose poem a largely fragmentary form that relies on metonymic metamorphoses to connect to a larger, unnamed frame of reference. In this way, the prose poem is both complete and yet searching for completeness, closed and lacking closure.
The prose poem’s reaching outwards to embrace a larger, absent whole connects this literary form to Friedrich Schlegel’s ‘Athenaeum Fragment 206’ and to the Romantic critical fragment more generally. ‘Athenaeum Fragment 206’ has provided this paper with its title, as a metaphorical reading of Schlegel’s igel, or hedgehog, as fragment ‘implies the existence of [a form that suggests] what is outside itself’ (Rosen 1995: 48). The final section of this paper, analyses two prose poems from the University of Canberra’s International Poetry Studies Institute’s Prose Poetry Project. These works by Jen Webb and Carrie Etter are read for their appeal to metonymy in their exploration of time passing and ultimately, death. They demonstrate that prose poetry is both fragmented and open ended in ways very different from lineated poems.