The British Prose Poem and ‘Poetry’ in Early Modernism

  • Margueritte S. Murphy


While the prose poem in Great Britain first rose to prominence during the fin de siècle, the form takes on a firmly experimental cast only with the next generation. These early modernist texts, although seldom labelled as ‘prose poems’, participated in the broader redefinition of ‘poetry’ undertaken at the time. In the midst of debates over the difference between poetry and prose, and with the emergence of the Imagiste aesthetic, prose poems became a medium for the presentation of unmediated emotion through destabilizing images and urban fragments that echoed and reacted to new technologies, in the mode of what Andreas Huyssen has defined as ‘metropolitan miniatures.’ This essay examines texts by Jessie Dismorr and John Rodker as examples of the new ‘poetry’ in prose.



I am indebted to the Modernist Journals Project of Brown University and the University of Tulsa for access to digital copies of BLAST, The Egoist, The Little Review, Poetry and Rhythm; all citations from these journals may be found at

Works Cited

  1. Aldington, Richard. “The Poetry of Amy Lowell.” The Egoist (July 1, 1915): 109–110.Google Scholar
  2. Bernard, Suzanne. “Notice.” Illuminations, by Arthur Rimbaud in Oeuvres. Paris: Garnier, 1960.Google Scholar
  3. Binyon, Laurence. “The Return to Poetry.” Rhythm 1.4 (Spring 1912): 1–2.Google Scholar
  4. Brooker, Peter. “‘Our London, My London, Your London’: The Modernist Moment in the Metropolis.” In The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature, edited by Laura Marcus and Peter Nicholls, 117–131. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  5. Dismorr, Jessie. “June Night.” BLAST 2 (July 1915a): 67–68.Google Scholar
  6. ———. “London Notes.” BLAST 2 (July 1915b): 66.Google Scholar
  7. ———. “Matinee.” The Little Review 4.11 (March 1918): 31–32.Google Scholar
  8. Editorial. BLAST 2 (July 1915): 5–6.Google Scholar
  9. Eliot, T. S. “The Borderline of Prose.” The New Statesman (May 19, 1917): 157–159.Google Scholar
  10. Fletcher, John Gould. “Miss Lowell’s Discovery: Polyphonic Prose.” Poetry 6.1 (April 1915): 32–36.Google Scholar
  11. Flint, F. S. “Imagisme.” Poetry 1.6 (March 1913): 198–200.Google Scholar
  12. Hickman, Miranda. “The Gender of Vorticism: Jessie Dismorr, Helen Saunders, and Vorticist Feminism.” In Vorticism: New Perspectives, edited by Mark Antliff and Scott W. Klein, 119–136. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  13. Hueffer, Ford Madox (Ford Madox Ford). “Impressionism—Some Speculations.” Poetry 2.5 (August 1913): 177–187.Google Scholar
  14. Hulme, T. E. “A Lecture on Modern Poetry.” In The Collected Writings of T. E. Hulme, edited by Karen Csengeri, 49–56. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  15. Huyssen, Andreas. Miniature Metropolis: Literature in an Age of Photography and Film. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.Google Scholar
  16. Jameson, Fredric. The Antinomies of Realism. London: Verso, 2013.Google Scholar
  17. Lowell, Amy. “Vers libre and Metrical Prose.” Poetry 3.6 (March 1914): 213–220.Google Scholar
  18. Monroe, Harriet. Review of Some Imagist Poets—An Anthology. Poetry 6.3 (June 1915): 150–153.Google Scholar
  19. Monroe, Jonathan. A Poverty of Objects: The Prose Poem and the Politics of Genre. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  20. Murphy, Margueritte S. A Tradition of Subversion: The Prose Poem in English from Wilde to Ashbery. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  21. Murry, John Middleton, and Katherine Mansfield. “The Meaning of Rhythm.” Rhythm 2.5 (June 1912): 18–20.Google Scholar
  22. Nelsen, Julia. “Modernist Laboratories: The Prose Poem and the Little Magazines.” Letteratura e letterature 4 (2010): 47–65.Google Scholar
  23. Rodker, John. “Three Nightpieces.” The Little Review 4.3 (July 1917): 16–18.Google Scholar
  24. Terdiman, Richard. Discourse/Counter-Discourse: The Theory and Practice of Symbolic Resistance in Nineteenth-Century France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margueritte S. Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.Hobart & William Smith CollegesGenevaUSA

Personalised recommendations