A Short Primer on the Prose Poem
with Selected Letters from Russell Edson
Truths, Falsehoods, and a Wee Bit of Honesty is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the prose poem and is worth buying for Russell Edson’s correspondence alone. Peter Johnson’s essays and interviews are filled with imaginative insights on poetic form, the nature of humor and the grotesque in contemporary poetry, the problem of genre, the anxiety of influence, and the permutations of content and form arising from writing and reading prose poetry, an oxymoronic genre memorably defined by Edson as “a cast-iron aeroplane that can actually fly.” The volume also offers much to be learned about the political in-fighting in literary circles and the genre’s cultural and institutional position in American letters. Highly recommended!
—Michel Delville, author of The American Prose Poem: Poetic Form and the Boundaries of Genre
In Peter Johnson’s Truths, Falsehoods, and a Wee Bit of Honesty, readers are given an operating manual for the American prose poem. With myriad examples from the work of many contemporary masters, Johnson is inclusive and accepting of various strategies and techniques. His interview with Russell Edson reveals how the attempts to pigeonhole the genre is pointless given the richness of voices in this genre. While Edson likens his writing to “dreaming awake,” the logic of the genre, its inherent wholeness, is what Johnson’s essays emphasize. This book is an important addition to the study of a form encompassing terror and humor and many in-between states.
—Maxine Chernoff, author of Under the Music: Collected Prose Poems
Peter Johnson has written an invaluable book on the legacy and mercurial nature of prose poetry in this omnibus collection of essays, letters, and interviews. In his inimitable, risible style of combining humor and consummate scholarship, Johnson enlightens and entertains at the same time. After more than twenty years of studying, teaching, editing, and writing award winning prose poems, Johnson has arrived at that sage stage in his career of making wonderful sense about the enduring, oxymoronic, transcendent character of the prose poem that defies genre, while claiming its own mercurial ground with what Russell Edson called “poetry mind.” Or as Johnson describes its literary magic as an ironic, appealing form that endures while “straddling the lines … between genres, both feet planted precariously on banana peels.”
—Chard deNiord, author of In My Unknowing
and I Would Lie to You if I Could: Interviews with Ten American Poets