poetic prose


Below is an email of mine to a friend.

(I have commenced a project I assigned to myself a month or two ago: reading the novels of Thomas Wolfe.)



“… a river that draws its flood and movement majestically from great depths, out of purple hills at evening” — Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again, Book One, Chapter 5



“This is what you called Wolfe’s prose poetry (or did you say ‘poetic prose’?).

“Wolfe’s critics might say ‘purple prose.’

“I find it beautiful, lyrical, powerful.

“(Read a small segment of a great writer’s prose and you already know a lot about his works. Not anyone could write this passage.)”


— Roger W. Smith

   August 5, 2017

2 thoughts on “poetic prose

  1. Tom Riggio

    Beauty, as ever, is as much in the eyes of the beholder as in the words on the page.

  2. Roger W. Smith

    Very true, Tom, but I wonder. Perhaps you find me rushing to judgment and look
    upon Wolfe with a jaundiced eye.

    Once, in a course at Columbia University, we were given the assignment of analyzing a
    lyrical passage from “The Private Papers of Henry Rycroft” by George Gissing. I
    had never heard of Gissing, and we
    were not told which work the quoted passage was from. I said to myself, “I’ve got to read this writer. My instincts didn’t deceive me. A soupçon of Gissing’s
    prose was enough.

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