Fiction and poetry seem to be the order of the day - reading, teaching and of course writing. As my own fiction writing practice crosses variably between fiction and poetry it’s great to also be teaching these alongside each other. And this semester I’ll be doing a session on exploratory narrative prose using David Miller’s wonderful anthology The Alchemist’s Mind: A Book of Prose by Poets (also Reality Street)- such a treat to see this book on the cover of the module handbook!
In this anthology Miller has collected prose works by poets, some being excerpts of longer pieces, some are self contained. As I seem to write prose from the vantage point of a poet I was drawn to this anthology to find out more about what poets were getting up to when writing narrative prose. Miller’s introduction to the anthology gives an overview to this area of writing and I especially agree that his choice of the term exploratory, rather than experimental or innovative, to describe what these writers are doing is better nuanced. ‘Exploratory’ indicates an investigative delving into, a looking into something from different angles without closing anything off. And this without the implication of a fail or succeed, even shoddiness, which I think the terms experimental or innovative can sometimes carry with them. The works in Miller’s anthology are pieces in which curiosity and openness are fully operative. A refusal to settle for what is in front of us, a striving after what else might be just below, beyond, behind, above us - of eyes and ears everywhere!
I think ‘explorations’ conveys what writers do when they take aspects of narrative prose and, as Miller says, look for other possibilities. In a few weeks I’ll be delivering that session to third year fiction undergraduates using Miller’s anthology. I hope this will open those writers, whether they think of themselves as writers of fiction, poetry or both, to the possibilities they can unearth by bringing themselves, and their experiences of their world into delving with a questioning curiosity into the realms of narrative prose - there’s so much waiting to be explored, treasures waiting to be found!