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Gigi Will Know: Am I writing a piece of flash or a prose poem?

What's the difference between the two?

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I like to write short, but I have difficulty figuring out if I’m writing a piece of flash or a prose poem. Is there a big difference between the two? How can I tell which one I’m writing?

—Prose/Poem

Dear Prose/Poem,

Gigi will know, but Google will also tell you: Prose poems are poems without the line breaks. Seriously. They may carry rhyme and pacing schematics; they will also use the same elements as poetry, like metaphors and chiasmus and anaphora and other figures of speech I had to Google myself before I wrote this reply to you.

The big difference is story arc: A prose poem is not required to have a story arc. A piece of flash, whether fiction or nonfiction, will have a narrative arc to it.

But! As with anything, there is a caveat: You might turn in a piece of what you think is prose poetry only to have the editor go, “Nope. It’s flash.” And there are plenty of flash editors I’ve spoken to who don’t believe flash needs a story arc.

Still, story arc is where I’m staking my flag. If you find yourself describing a moment, a vignette, a scene, then you probably have a work of prose poetry.

Sometimes a banana is just a banana,

—Gigi

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