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The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem Reviews

The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem by Jeremy Noel-Tod

The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem

From Baudelaire to Anne Carson

Jeremy Noel-Tod

4.25 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Poetry, Non-fiction
Imprint: Penguin Classics
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 26 Sep 2018
ISBN: 9780241285794

Jeremy Noel-Tod reconstructs the history of the prose poem for us by selecting the essential pieces of writing - by turns luminous, brooding, lamentatory and comic - which have defined and developed it at each stage, covering a greater chronological sweep and international range than any previous anthology of its kind.

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
4 stars out of 5
Kate Kellaway
2 Dec 2018

"An essential collection of prose poems from across the globe, by old masters and new, reveals the form’s astonishing range"

By the end, my copy of the book was bristling with bookmarks. I loved Turgenev’s On the Sea (1879), about what it is to be a living creature, about a man’s encounter with a pet monkey on a steamer – he holds her “little, black, cold hand”. Emily Berry’s Some Fears (2013) escalates – thrillingly gets its wind up. And Margaret Atwood’s In Love with Raymond Chandler (1992) is an entertaining, fully furnished must read.


5 stars out of 5
Tim Smith-Laing
4 Jan 2019

"a wonderful alternative history of modern poetry"

Fortunately for readers of this superb anthology, Noel-Tod has as good a reader's eye as you could hope for. In putting together The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, he has trawled 175 years of texts to give not just a survey of the prose poem, but "an alternative history of modern poetry" itself. As a collection, the 200 prose poems gathered here fulfil the various tasks of the literary anthology – as history lesson, exercise in critical and political theory, vade mecum and florilegium – with such apparent ease that you could almost forget the vast amount of work and thought that must have gone into it. It is hard to know how it could possibly be bettered.

4 stars out of 5
Leaf Arbuthnot
16 Dec 2018

"A wonderful selection provides ample justification for literature’s most flexible form: the prose poem"

The prose poem has been said to plant “one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels”. That sense of instability and unpredictability pulses through this anthology: many works capture moments of sudden horror or oddity, including Baudelaire’s 1869 poem The Bad Glazier, in which the speaker finds “instant infinite satisfaction” in lobbing a pot of flowers at a man carrying a sheet of glass. But as Noel-Tod shows, perhaps the prose poem’s ultimate subject is the prosaic.