from NARRATION: LECTURE 2
If poetry is the calling upon a name
until that name comes to be anything if one goes on calling on that name
more and more calling upon that name as poetry does then poetry does make
of that calling upon a name a narrative it is a narrative of calling upon
that name. That is what poetry has been and as it has been that thing as
it has been a calling upon a name instead of a succession of internal balancing
as prose has been then naturally at the time all the time the long time
after the Elizabethans poetry and prose has not been the same thing no
not been at all the same thing. Before the end of the Elizabethans and
then in the eighteenth century when the inner balancing of sentences really
invaded poetry and poetry was less the calling upon a name of anything
than it was an inner balancing of anything. Pope is an excellent example
it is hard telling really about the eighteenth century whether there is
any really any internal feeling that makes poetry poetry and a different
thing from prose.
But during the nineteenth century there was no doubt no doubt about it. Prose was the sentence and paragraphing and the use not of nouns but of parts of speech that made their use that use and poetry was the calling upon names the really calling upon names. There has always been this real difference between prose and poetry, that prose is dependent upon the sentence and then upon the paragraph and poetry upon the calling upon names. There have been some centuries never forget that a century is always more or less about one hundred years, but always there has been this difference and now well now is there this difference is there this difference and if not why not.
Very well then.
It is certain that there has been this thing prose and poetry and narrative which is roughly a telling of anything where anything happens after any other thing.
In the beginning there really was no difference between poetry and prose in the beginning of writing in the beginning of talking the beginning of hearing anything or about anything. How could there be how could there have been since the name of anything was then as important as anything as anything that could be said about anything. Once more I tell you that the Old Testament this thing there was not really any difference between prose and poetry then, they told what they were and they felt what they saw and they knew how they knew and everything they had to say came as it had to come to do what it had to do.
Really can you say that there was any difference between prose and poetry then. No not at all. Not then.
And then slowly they came to know that what they knew might mean something different from what they had known it was when they knew simply knew what it was. And so they began telling about it then how one thing meant something then and how something else meant something else then and in poetry they tried to say what they knew as they knew it and then more and more then they simply tried to name it and that made poetry then, anything made poetry then and they told anything and as they told anything they felt it as a telling of anything and so it meant more and more that they called it by its name as they knew it and that more and more made poetry then.
At the same time as I say they began to feel what they said when they said anything when they knew anything and this made them then think about how they said anything how they knew anything and in telling this thing telling how they knew anything how they said anything prose began, and so then there was prose and poetry. Before that there had been only one thing, the one thing any one knew as they knew anything.
Prose and poetry then went on and more and more as it went on prose was more and more telling and by sentences balancing and then by paragraphing prose was more and more telling how anything happened if any one had anything to say about what happened how anything was known if any one had anything to say about how anything was known, and poetry poetry tried to remain with knowing anything and knowing its name, gradually it came to really not knowing but really only knowing its name and that is at last what poetry became.
[Gertrude Stein. "Lecture 2." In Narration. University of Chicago Press, 1935.]