Prose Poetry Lab Editor Profile: Jose Hernandez Diaz

Our Prose Poetry Lab, an MFA-style asynchronous course on writing prose poetry, closes at the end of this week! You can submit and find more info here. Let us introduce you to the first of three editors who will be providing personal feedback to the participants of the program: Jose Hernandez Diaz.



Professional Bio

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of California at Berkeley and Antioch University Los Angeles. He is the author of a collection of prose poems: The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review, Huizache, Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, The Nation, Poetry, Southeast Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011. Currently, he is an editor at Frontier and Palette Poetry. Additionally, he has taught creative writing for Sevilla Writers House and Litro Magazine.


Short List of Favorite Prose Poetry Books

  • Dome of the Hidden Pavilion by James Tate
  • Cool Auditor by Ray Gonzalez
  • I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
  • The World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic
  • See Jack by Russell Edson
  • Citizen by Claudia Rankine


Short List of Favorite Literary Journals/Magazines

  • Lost Balloon
  • The Cincinnati Review (MicroSeries)
  • CutBank
  • elsewhere magazine
  • Hotel Amerika
  • Okay Donkey
  • Bennington Review
  • Pithead Chapel
  • Barrelhouse


What do you feel defines prose poetry? What features must be present for it to remain poetry and not just prose?

Jose Hernandez Diaz: Prose poetry must not have line breaks. Prose poetry must go to the end of the page. Prose poetry may be written in paragraphs (with indentation) or block form (without indentation). Prose poetry can employ various poetic techniques such as figurative language, repetition, rhyme, or hyperbole. Prose poetry is less interested in plot than flash fiction.


What do you see as the future of the form?

I see the future of prose poetry as a continuation of the traditional fable, absurd, and surreal prose poem, but also the rising popularity of the personal and political prose poem because of our turbulent times. These personal and political prose poems are prominent with writers such as Claudia Rankine, Jennifer Givhan, or Juan Felipe Herrera.


Who are your favorite prose poetry writers from the 20th century?

James Tate because of his spontaneity, innovation, and bringing surrealism down to earth through the use of American vernacular and dialogue. Charles Simic because of his interest in the comedic and the absurd; also, because of his simplicity, less is more, aesthetic. Marosa di Giorgio because of her avant-garde aesthetics/singularity.


Who are your favorite prose poetry writers from the 21st century? Why?

Claudia Rankine because of her interest in documenting injustice and the harsh realities of People of Color. Felicia Zamora because of her experimental interest in language, juxtaposition, and tonality. Christopher Kennedy has a way of balancing the surreal with mental health issues and creating an especially relevant and urgent poetics.


Can you explain some of the grey areas between prose poetry and flash fiction?

Both can tell a story but prose poetry is less interested in the story making absolute sense. Both are written in paragraphs but flash fiction tends to be significantly longer. Flash fiction is more interested in plot and traditional storytelling elements such as conflict, climax, epiphany, resolution.


Join the Lab before 7/31!


Testimonial from Our 2021 Spring Poetry Lab

“I am so glad the inaugural Poetry Lab was a success! The amount of effort, skill and professionalism that went into the resource materials is obvious and I cannot wait until summer brings along my annual extended hiatus from work and I can give them their due. Jenny Molberg invited me to be in touch about a book called Louder Birds that got published with Pleiades. Mostly, I’d love to be able to thank her for her helpful critique, encouragement and a rich list of suggested poets to read. Thanks again for enriching my writing life, Josh (and the Frontier Poetry team), Shelley”
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