“WHAT is prose?” my friend Kublai asked.
Prose, is always a topic in my comments on young writers’ articles these days. It’s one thing that has been lost as second language writers have become more defiant in just expressing themselves without regard for how the words and grammar will flow in their chosen language of communication.
While prose is defined as written or spoken language in its ordinary form, what is lost in the definition is that it is a technique in language that exhibits a natural flow of speech and grammatical structure. It exists in a world where grammar rules. Sad to say, grammar has long been kicked in the butt and left stranded somewhere along with books left to gather dusts in library shelves as the “no child left behind” policy of the education department has become interpreted as just promoting schoolchildren to the next grade, even if they do not know how to read, write, and most of all comprehend the written word.
But oldies like me will insist on the flow, and you can only get the flow if you put your heart into the art of writing.
“So what is prose?” Kublai asked as we tackled our frustrations over how everything has already been bastardized and just about anybody can claim to be something he is not really cut up to be. Where anyone who can afford a camera can claim he’s a photographer, and just about any person now claims to be a writer because he has a blog. And yes, artists. Just about anyone now can claim to be an artist. What with graphic programs that can convert anything you want to convert into something else.
“Prose is People’s Park,” I replied.
“What?” He asked.
“If poetry were Da Vinci and Michaelangelo, prose is People’s Park,” I replied.
The sculptures in People’s Park may not have the fine lines of the paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance Masters, in fact they are downright caricatures: big eyes, big heads, just about everything big, rough lines, rough surfaces. But the art in the making of the figures, the concepts are able to reach out to the masses and communicate the fun and the spirit that each sculpture tries to convey. That is prose in cement.
While indeed, prose both in writing and expression is regarded as in ordinary form, it speaks in the same level as poetry: there is a mastery of the language that is required, the technique that exhibits a natural flow and grammatical structure. It’s not crass language, it’s not bastardized grammar.
But one can only achieve that through becoming very familiar with the language you choose to communicate in. Meaning, reading. Read, read, read, until the flow becomes part of how you communicate, until you no longer need to use a thesaurus or a dictionary app to feed you the words you need, until you feel in your gut that you are looking at or reading something that is beautiful, something that connects, something that speaks to your soul.
In the meantime, we are made to suffer street language and sentences sewn together like rags from a mind that was thinking in an entirely different language and just patching up words into literal translations, the worst of which we witness in the auto-translate feature of Facebook.