I admit it. I am prosaic. I think in sentences. I speak in paragraphs. I write in 5-paragraph essays. I should stop with the repetition of forms and the parallel structures, because that could easily be seen as poetic and defeat my argument in this post. I write prose. Simple. Direct. Declarative. But those last three are sentence fragments. Does that fit the model of prose? How about asking a question in the middle of a paragraph full of statements? Is that all simple enough to be truly prosaic?
Prose is focused on the everyday tasks of writing. It seems like the world thinks that the mechanical delivery of information in words and sentences should be boring, should be functional, should be simple and easy to understand.
I don’t mean to be pulling your reader’s mind in two directions at once, however. I need to stop confusing you with my onslaught of sentences full of contradictory and complex ideas. I should be more clear, more direct, and more to the point.
So here is my thesis, finally clearly stated; The magic of writing prose, it turns out, makes you the opposite of prosaic.
Ah, irony again! It ends up being anything but simple. You can write in simple, adjective-and-adverb-free sentences as Hemingway did, and still manage to convey deeply complicated and thoughtful ideas. One might even suggest that you can create poetic ideas in mere prose, dripping with layers of emotion, conflict, theme, and deeper implied meaning. You can also write prose in the intensely descriptive and convoluted style of a Charles Dickens with many complex sentences and pages-long paragraphs of detail, using comic juxtapositions of things, artfully revealing character development, and idiosyncratic dialogue all for comedic effect. Prose is a powerful and infinitely variable tool for creating meaning in words. Even when it is in the form of Mickian purple paisley prose that employs extra-wiggly sentence structure, pretzel-twisted ideas, and hyperbolically big words.
Simply stated; I am a writer of prose. I am too dumb about what makes something poetry to really write anything but prose. But I do know how to make a word-pile like this one that might just accidentally make you think a little more deeply about your writing… that is, if you didn’t give up on reading this three paragraphs ago. I find it useful to examine in writing how I go about writing and what I can do with it. I try to push the boundaries in directions they haven’t been pushed before. And hopefully, I learn something from every new essay I write. What I learned here is that I am prosaic. And that is not always a bad thing.
2 responses to “Being Prosaic”
Mickey, prosaic is a word that does not seem to mean what it sounds like. As you note, you would think prosaic means a good thing. Keith
It’s true. Long about the time Lord Byron and Percy Shelley were writing poetry, “poetic” became the good adjective and “prosaic” became the bad. Danged poets are to blame! Of course, if you ever read the novel Humphrey Clinker, by Tobias “Uncle Smellfungus” Smollet, you can definitely see why they decided that.