The Art of Prose (With Digressions) by Daniel Nester

Today is the day Melville was describing: rainy, and dark, the end of summer. He would have liked doom metal and free jazz, or said he liked it to friends. All the rebel artists were rich children artists once. They saw close up what these powerful shitcans can do. We are not in the wrong place now, at least. Let’s batten down something other than hatches because it’s National Never Write a Novel Month again. No one marches to a poem. Sure, there are uncanny feelings, and unsettled bellyaches of energy, but silver is just a shinier gray, and if that doesn’t work the first time, love, well, stitch it together and we’ll unfurl in the same way all villanelles eventually do. The thing itself is not the same as its name. Some day, poetry will end its long, long, courtship of birds, paintings, mythology—all grant-getters, vacations, naps. Mornings of great contemplation at the foot of famous rebels who live in the woods. Someone may ask “What is ‘feeling’”? Someone answers: “It’s kind of like consciousness, dear, except you give it some goddamn value.” There have been more perfect moments than that, but it doesn’t matter. Oddballs stand around laptops and dance like it’s the mummer’s parade, but it doesn’t matter. Kids still plant flamingos and we put dictators in parades now. Today is the day Melville was describing, and I drove five hours just to see a lady with a faux fur hat open her mouth and drop dogma for two hours. And in a church no less. I will have to have prose thoughts, too, I guess.


Daniel Nester is an essayist, poet, journalist, editor, teacher, and Queen fan. His latest book is a memoir, Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects. Previous books include How to Be Inappropriate , God Save My Queen I and II, and The Incredible Sestina Anthology, which he edited. Recent work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Electric Literature, and the Poetry Foundation website. He is an Associate Professor of English at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.

photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO