To avoid spoilers, read Michael’s prose-poem on Unbroken Journal: ‘Transit.’
Although there is a definite dream-like quality to Michael's prose-poem, it is centred on real, everyday waking experiences. The use of second person here is a clever trick that gives the narrator a layer of protection, as though pretending what is happening is happening to someone else. From choosing tools based on whether he’ll outlive them, or writing his name in the steamed mirror, the narrator feels very real.
The use of imperative verbs to begin many of the sentences, particularly early in the piece, conveys an active, instruction-like tone. Words such as, ‘Review,’ ‘Arrange,’ ‘Stop,’ ‘Don’t,’ Gaze,’ and so on, generate a definite tone that contrasts with the dream-like quality the piece has in its entirety.
‘Transit,’ captures something important, yet amorphous happening to the narrator, who appears intent on changing in some way. This is expressed in the line: ‘Part your hair the opposite way so you’ll view yourself as others do.’ This line is wonderful, and somehow brings us closer to the narrator. This is then followed by the line, ‘Use clippers to take it all down to the scalp. Now you can be anyone.’ Here, the tone shifts to a darker one, as the narrator is prepared to do something far more drastic.
For me, literature should communicate something about what it feels like to be alive. And Michael does this here. It is always difficult to combat such grand ideas head on, and this is where pieces like Michael’s come in. It’s the idea of sleeping, arising, and leaving no sign of oneself that really hits home for me. We have all fallen into an existential funk or two, but to communicate this in the way Michael has, I think, is brilliant: ‘Walk away from the bed. It’s as if you were never there.’ Or as Macbeth said: ‘[Life] is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’
‘Transit,’ as its title suggests, communicates movement through space and time: ‘Staying in one place is the same as losing ground. If you remain here, you’ll perish. This won’t happen suddenly; it takes about three decades or so.’ This captures something telling about how time passes, as does the whole story.
This makes me want to read more prose-poetry, a genre I have not explored nearly enough. It is an interesting combination. Poetry and prose often do very different things. On the one hand, prose is about moving story forward, is about change through time. However, poetry wants to slow down time and asks us to examine something closely. The combination of the two creates an intriguing mixture.
'Transit,' is a fantastic piece of writing.
Note to self: Push yourself with genre. Try something else and test its limits.
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