– By Stephanie Katz
Prose poetry blurs the lines between genres by looking like prose, but sounding like poetry. While there is no set structure for the prose poem, many are written as single paragraph of prose finished by a few lines of poignant verse, and they often make good use of alliteration, assonance, repetition, imagery, and other poetic devices. Flash pieces that are vignettes and not plot-focused may actually be prose poems in disguise, and writers can revive these pieces by reworking lines with an ear tuned for poetry.
Examples of prose poetry are My Sister Blazed Through Her Life, by Ellery Akers and “& who, this time,” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib—one of 16 poems included in this year’s Best of the Net Anthology. Haibun, a combination of prose and haiku that originated in the 17th century, is considered the first form of prose poetry. A recently published example of haibun is “Grandmothers’ Eyes,” by Teri White Carns. Writing haibun is a great way to combine lengthy, flowery writing and minimalist writing.
Most journals that publish poetry in general also publish prose poetry, though a handful specifically seek this interesting form. The journals below do not charge submission fees, though their contests may be charged, and many pay their writers.
Beloit Poetry Journal has been around since 1950 and is one of the few journals that publishes longer poetry. They seek to publish “the brutally honest and the unparaphrasable alongside the wryly funny.” Submissions are seasonal, issues are in print only, and regular submissions do not pay. Their annual Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry awards $1,500 for a single previously unpublished poem and this year’s prize will be judged by poetic giant Naomi Shihab Nye – there is a reading fee of $15 per entry. Their Chad Walsh Prize awards $3,000 for a group of published poems.
Cease, Cows is a funky, bi-weekly online journal that publishes flash and poetry, including a good amount of prose poetry. They seek unconventional pieces, including “strange literary, magical realism, speculative, slipstream, utopian and dystopian, bizarro, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, and just plain weird fictions.” They accept simultaneous submissions and submit their authors to all the usual prizes. Submissions are currently closed, but should reopen soon.
elsewhere accepts short prose, including flash fiction, nonfiction, and prose poetry, and is one of the few journals that focus on prose poetry. They’re looking for pieces that “cross, blur, and/or mutilate genre.” They put out six pieces per issue each quarter and have published online since 2014. The winner of their chapbook contest receives $1,000 and publication at AWP. There is a submission fee. They accept simultaneous submissions year-round.
Frogpond Journal is published three times a year by the Haiku Society of America. This journal has been around since 1978 and is devoted to haiku, haibun, and other similar forms. Frogpond publishes poems in English from contributors worldwide and is the highest circulating haiku journal outside of Japan. Print issues are available for a subscription fee, but an online sampler is available for free. Note, they do not take simultaneous submissions.
HOOT is a literary journal published as a monthly postcard. Each postcard issue contains a single short piece of either prose or prose poetry of less than 150 words or regular poetry of less than 10 lines. They seek upbeat submissions and they “especially like work that is audacious, surprising and zesty.” HOOT also publishes a monthly online issue featuring four short works. Mail submissions are free, electronic submissions via Submittable are $2, and they pay for printed pieces. Payment depends on how much fee for print submissions was collected for that issue. They accept simultaneous submissions year-round, and they host a free weekly writing workshop where writers can get feedback on their work. Subscriptions to this unique journal are only $16 a year, and you can send a specific issue with a hand-written note to someone for $2.
jubilat is a print journal that publishes poetry, art, and writing about poetry. Their published poems have been selected for the Pushcart Prize and the Best American Poetry. They accept simultaneous submissions via Submittable January 15-April 1. Subscriptions are $20 a year, but many back issues have links to poems and to poets reading their poems, which is a wonderful way to experience a poem.
The Lark is a new online journal that publishes three compact issues per year and pays $25 per accepted piece (funded by donations). They publish all forms of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, scripts, art, videos, and films. The editors are looking for “what’s risky, critical, musical, philosophical, playful, experimental, sexy, or deadly serious.” Though their issues are small, they publish a high percent of debut authors. They accept simultaneous submissions year-round.
Ninth Letter has been published by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for 15 years, is available at Barnes & Noble, and is known for its stunning graphic design. Ninth Letter’s publishing scheme can be confusing, as they put out two different issues—a print issue edited by faculty and MFA students and an online, themed issue edited by undergrads. The editors are looking for prose and poetry that experiment with form and nontraditional subject matter. They accept mailed and Submittable submissions, have annual contests, and best of all, pay $25 per printed page. Deadlines are seasonal, so check their site for updates. Though there is no fee for regular submissions, they do charge $17 for their annual contest, which pays $1,000 for the winning poem, short story, and essay.
Palaver Published by University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program, Palaver publishes one eclectic issue each May. Issues contain creative works, including prose poetry, as well as academic essays. Their most recent issue has a wide range of works, including prose and found poetry, art, and essays. They take simultaneous via Submittable from February 15 to September 14.
The Sun boasts over 70,000 readers and their writing has won the Pushcart Prize and been featured in several Best American anthologies. Their monthly issues feature a handful of poignant poems, as well as short stories and personal and socio-political essays, and interviews. Their issue are both print and online, and they take simultaneous submissions year-round. They are one of the highest paying journals for poetry, and they pay $100-$250 per poem.
Unbroken Journal is published quarterly and showcases prose poems, vignettes, and haibun. They “desire to give the block, the paragraph, [and] the un-lineated prose, a new place to play.” They are one of the only journals devoted to prose poems. A poem they published in their 10th issue—”A Chat” by Joanne Jackson Yelenik—was a finalist for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology. Issues are online, and they take simultaneous submissions year-round. Their sister journal, Unlost Journal, publishes found poetry.
Stephanie Katz is a librarian and the editor-in-chief of 805 Lit + Art, an international online literary and art journal (805lit.org). 805 won the 2018 Innovation Award from the Florida Library Association, was featured in Poets & Writers, and was selected as runner-up for Tampa Bay Creative Loafing’s 2017 Best Local Literary Journal Award. Stephanie has had articles published in professional library journals, presented at librarian conferences, taught writing workshops, and judged for the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award.