Can flash fiction be poetry? or Flash Poetic Prose

August 13, 2009 § 21 Comments

short_stories_1927_10_10_aIn Linda Cassidy Lewis’s first attempt at flash fiction (a well done piece and one you’ll especially appreciate if you’ve participated in online dating), she commented that it might be easy for me  because I am a poet.

What she didn’t know is that I started writing flash fiction and abandoned it when I fell in love with poetry. In writing fiction I always wrote short  (I had the same problem in school: More, they would tell me, it needs to be longer.)  – too short for many people, including the editors to whom I submitted my favorite pieces.

So now I’m wondering, can flash fiction be prose poetry or simply poetry? Is it a genre/definition issue when it’s not quite one or another? So, I’m asking you to do me a favor – how would you classify this?

 

Runaway

I’m sweating, heart pounding as I reach the road, cars roaring, puffing exhaust fumes. He’s mad so he’ll be close behind. I start walking, shoes tugged by the melting tar.

“Hey, girl, wanna ride?”

“No, thanks, mister.”

Car speeds off, tires spitting. Gravel kicks my shin and I spit on the hot spot.

Gas station’s not far. Maybe Ned’ll be there with the key to the soda box. Ice cold would taste real good right now, my stomach’s still dry from last night’s crackers.  

“Girl, get in.”

My heart jumps and I double sweat.

“No, mister, go’way.”

Car stays by me, I can’t see my shadow, it’s too big.

“Girl.”

I start to run, into the scratchy grass, pack slamming against my back, bouncing off my kidneys.

Car door slams.

Wonder when Daddy’s coming.

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§ 21 Responses to Can flash fiction be poetry? or Flash Poetic Prose

  • jdavidbodzin says:

    I really like this; it’s poetic and its a story.

    I really like writing 100 word flash fiction and I run into the same type of comments.

    People who are not familiar with flash seem to have trouble grasping the idea of a story that does not follow a character for a long period of time. They feel cheated that the author leaves them hanging with out giving clues as to what will happen after the story is finished. In your example I think it is very clear as to what happens and as disturbing as it may be it is wonderfully done.

    Honestly, I think flash is its own genre, but it is grasped better by poets and non-traditional readers and writers.

    Thanks for sharing it, you have a new reader.

    http://www.JDavidBodzin.Blogspot.com

    • Thank you so much, David. And I think you gave us an insightful description of the challenges of reading and writing flash, especially very short flash. Hence, the word …flash. :-)

      I’m on my way to visit yours!

  • cewejimmy says:

    Firstly Pamela, this is a very nice piece. Like many who commented above, I don’t particularly like classifying. Why do we need labels on everything? I either like something or I don’t.
    Labels are useful I suppose when looking for something specific. A bit like going to a store and buying your shopping. But I do tend to have an aversion to them in the likes of poetry and music. They can so often prevent us for finding things we like because we are put off by a label.
    Thanks for your comment on my poem Incidentally. So let me repay the compliment!

  • G says:

    Reads more like a short story than a poem. Nice piece of flash though.

  • Who knew this could stir such feelings? I’m more confused than ever, but feel less concerned about defining genre.

    May we can create an new one: “Flash Poetic Prose.”

    Yea, that’s the ticket.

  • Vicki says:

    This appears to be an ill fated attempt at avant- garde liturgy or simply a way for the intelligentsia to pacify all of us who suffer with ADD! Either way…is this really a valid genre? I agree with tannerleah, I don’t know what this is!

  • womaninblack says:

    If only you could publish a novel that was 150 words long. I could manage that. I could market it in Lilliput.
    I am a notorious over-writer, so flash fiction is not for me. By the time I get to 150 words, I’ve just about written the title.

  • Honestly, I don’t think there is a hard, fast rule about this type of writing, but an editor may feel different. Raymond Carver wrote a couple of short pieces like this, but without the quotation marks. I like it though.

  • Julie and Claire,

    I understand what you are saying. I guess my desire for a definition comes from my current focus on submitting, and wondering to best place to go with it.

    So maybe I’ll add it to the prose/poetry group and see what happens.

    Thanks for the feedback – it’s greatly appreciated.

    • I’ve found that submitting isn’t as tight as many authors believe it to be. Writing is subjective to an extent as far as genres and styles go. It’s much more important to make sure you follow word counts and formatting to a T but let the basis for your submission be more fluid.

  • I’m with Claire. I don’t know what the difference is between prose poetry and simple poetry. Seems your example could certainly be flash fiction or a poem. But what do I know?

  • I’m not one for locking anything into a category, and I really don’t even know the difference between prose poetry and simple poetry. So why can’t it be all of the above? And then some as well?

  • tannerleah says:

    I don’t know what it is but it was excellent.

  • Linda says:

    This is terrifying. I’m interested to see what others say. I’m not a poet, so I don’t feel qualified to answer your question, but it does seem like prose poetry I’ve read.

    • Thanks, Linda. That’s interesting. I really need to learn more about it.

    • Marcella says:

      I say flash. You’ve taken us into just a snippet of a moment-a flash- and you’ve done so by highlighting the things she feels in that moment- the terror, the questions- but you’ve left out some of the lyrical, descriptive things I think of when I think poetry. That’s a good thing in this case, becuase the details you DO include, the cold soda, the tar, the hot spot where the gravel hit her, the fear, are enough to pull us in, make us hold our breaths and go “sigh-ahh” at the end. Nice story!

      • Thanks, Marcella, for reading and taking the time to dissect this for me. You made an excellent point about the missing lyricism! You have the mind of a critic – the best kind.

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