Dr Cassandra Atherton is an award-winning writer, academic and critic. She has been awarded a Harvard Visiting Scholar’s position from August 2015–September 2016 and was a Visiting Fellow at Sophia University, Tokyo in 2014. She has published eight books (with two more in progress) and over the last three years has been invited to edit six special editions of leading refereed journals. She is the successful recipient of more than 15 national and international grants and teaching awards. Her most recent books of prose poetry are Trace (Finlay Lloyd) and Exhumed (Grand Parade).

Professor Paul Hetherington is Head of the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra. He edited the final three volumes of the National Library of Australia’s authoritative four-volume edition of the diaries of the artist Donald Friend. He has published 12 full-length collections of poetry, including Burnt Umber and Ikaros. He won the 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards (poetry); was a finalist in the 2018 international Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition; and was commended in the 2016 Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2015–16 he undertook an Australia Council for the Arts Literature Board Residency at the BR Whiting Studio in Rome.

The Prose Poem as Igel

A Reading of Fragmentation and Closure in Prose Poetry

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.