Prose Poetry: An Introduction

With Professor Paul Hetherington
Princeton University Press, 2020

Prose Poetry is the first book of its kind—an engaging and authoritative introduction to the history, development, and features of English-language prose poetry, an increasingly important and popular literary form that is still too little understood and appreciated. Poets and scholars Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton introduce prose poetry’s key characteristics, chart its evolution from the nineteenth century to the present, and discuss many historical and contemporary prose poems that both demonstrate their great diversity around the Anglophone world and show why they represent some of today’s most inventive writing.

A prose poem looks like prose but reads like poetry: it lacks the line breaks of other poetic forms but employs poetic techniques, such as internal rhyme, repetition, and compression. Prose Poetry explains how this form opens new spaces for writers to create riveting works that reshape the resources of prose while redefining the poetic. Discussing prose poetry’ s precursors, including William Wordsworth and Walt Whitman, and prose poets such as Charles Simic, Russell Edson, Lydia Davis, and Claudia Rankine, the book pays equal attention to male and female prose poets, documenting women’s essential but frequently unacknowledged contributions to the genre.

Revealing how prose poetry tests boundaries and challenges conventions to open up new imaginative vistas, this is an essential book for all readers, students, teachers, and writers of prose poetry.

‘Taking readers on an international tour d’horizon of contemporary Anglophone prose poetry, this introduction is at the same time a history of its origins and evolution. Wide and close reading are at the heart of the book, and the generous quotation of poets and critics also makes it a terrific mini-anthology.’

—Jeremy Noel-Tod, editor of The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem

Dreaming Awake: New Contemporary Prose Poetry  from the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

With Professor Peter Johnson 
MadHat Press, Cheshire, MA, USA, 2022

Dreaming Awake: New and Contemporary Prose Poetry from the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom demonstrates that the contemporary prose poem continues to flourish in the sometimes-precarious borderlands between lineated poetry and conventional prose. In this volume, editors Peter Johnson and Cassandra Atherton have assembled four prose poems each—from fifty-one world-class poets, revealing the prose poem’s capacity for idiosyncratic and surprising insights. Does the prose poem in Australia differ from the prose poem in the United States or the United Kingdom? Or does this even matter? Dreaming Awake suggests that wherever it is written prose poetry may be at the forefront of twenty-first-century poetic innovation.


With Professor Paul Hetherington and Phil Day
Gazebo Books, Life Before Man imprint, 2022

Alcatraz is a one-of-a-kind illustrated anthology of short prose and prose poetry. It showcases works from many of the most exciting practitioners writing in English across the globe.

The anthology is titled Alcatraz largely because of the playfulness inherent in the word, which contains the first and last letters of the English alphabet in first and last positions. Contributing writers were asked to respond to the idea of ‘Alcatraz’ in any way they chose – whether directly or more tangentially. This resulted in a wonderful series of responses, taking on and expanding a wide array of the associations connected to this historically loaded word.

The book is highly inventive in its layout, with contributions appearing according to their length. This means that the book moves from the shortest to the longest pieces and the illustrations complement the shape of the written pieces. They are line drawings, playing on the idea of taking a line from the work and representing it obliquely without ever overwhelming it. Alcatraz is a highly creative, unusual and distinctive volume celebrating international collaboration and the special magic that happens in the meeting of short prose works and visual art.

The Language in My Tongue: An Anthology of Australian and New Zealand Poetry

With Professor Paul Hetherington
MadHat Press, Cheshire, MA, USA, 2022

‘This new anthology of Australian and New Zealand poetry is remarkable for its exuberance, its vitality, and the notably youthful vibrancy of its free verse as well as its innovative prose poetry.  Including a wide range of voices from such well-known poets as John Kinsella, Pam Brown, and John Tranter to relative new-comers like Chris Tse and essa may ranapiri, The Language in my Tongue is full of surprises and special pleasures.’

—Marjorie Perloff, Professor Emerita of English  at Stanford University and Florence R. Scott Professor  of English Emerita at the University of Southern California

‘Here are vernaculars. Here are modern-day classics. Here is a “mind in an unclear world,” “a space perfection will never survive.”  Here is invention permitted to travel the world, in dense prose poems and in chatty ones, in capable free verse and ghazals, “emissaries” and “a russet lock in an envelope.” Here Echnida meets the Spider, “making things transparent,” and here [is] bodily frailty and erotic love. Here, readers, are some highlights of the Antipodes, two—no, far more than two—poetic traditions, made available for you. Investigate. Drink deep.’

—Stephanie Burt, Professor of English at Harvard University


Gazebo Books: Life Before Man imprint, 2020

Atherton’s treatment of the prose poem in Leftovers creates a synæsthesia-like experience. Her inventive regard of ordinary things triggers a breadth of sensations and memories, blurring in and out of her real world and her other ‘real’ world of literary fiction.

‘Cassandra Atherton’s prose poetry interweaves art and lived-life in the very best of ways.’

— Mark Yakich, New Orleans Review

Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry

With Professor Paul Hetherington
Melbourne University Press, 2020

Prose poetry is a resurgent literary form in the English-speaking world and has been rapidly gaining popularity in Australia. Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington have gathered a broad and representative selection of the best Australian prose poems written over the last fifty years. The Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry includes numerous distinguished prose poets; Jordie Albiston, Joanne burns, Gary Catalano, Anna Couani, Alex Skovron, Samuel Wagan Watson, Ania Walwicz and many more; and documents prose poetry's growing appeal over recent decades, from the poetic margins to the mainstream. This collection reframes our understanding not only of this dynamic poetic form, but of Australian poetry as a whole.

‘A welcome and long overdue publication ... Atherton and Hetherington’s considered selection will go a long way towards placing [prose poetry] in the public eye.’

— Des Cowley, Australian Book Review

Strange Cargo: Five Australian Poets

Smith|Doorstop, Sheffield, UK, 2017.

Poetry is an international language but it does not always have the opportunity to travel as widely as it might. This anthology is a vehicle for such travel, providing generous selections from the work of five acclaimed and award-winning Australian poets – Lucy Dougan, Cassandra Atherton, Paul Hetherington, Jen Webb and Sarah Holland-Batt – which deserves wider international representation and attention.

“Cassandra Atherton’s poems are replete with eruptions from Rapunzel to Anna Karenin, Woolf, Proust, Faulkner and others as they trace lines of desire across the complex wrinkles of consciousness. These paragraphs (these cloudlets) breathe—warm and alive and urgent—with us as we read them.”

– Kevin Brophy

The Unfinished Atomic Bomb: Shadows and Reflections

Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, MD, USA, 2018.

In its diversity of perspectives, The Unfinished Atomic Bomb: Shadows and Reflections is testament to the ways in which contemplations of the A-bomb are endlessly shifting, rarely fixed on the same point or perspective. The essays here represent a complex series of interpretations of the bombing of Hiroshima, and its implications both for history, and for the present day. The discussions here are often difficult, sometimes controversial, and at times oppositional, reflecting the characteristics of A-bomb scholarship more broadly. The aim is to explore the various ways in which Hiroshima is remembered, but also to consider the ongoing legacy and impact of atomic warfare, the reverberations of which remain powerfully felt.

“This is a compassionate, timely, and extremely readable book that reminds readers that it is our responsibility to pass on the memories of the atomic-bombing so that there shall be ‘no more Hiroshima and Nagasaki”

– Fumiko Nishizaki, University of Tokyo

The Unfinished Atomic Bomb is important reading, not merely for those wanting to keep abreast of recent developments in ‘bomb scholarship’, but also for those interested in one of the most compelling issues of our time.’

– Robin Gerster, Monash University

Travelling Without Gods: A Chris Wallace-Crabbe Companion

Melbourne University Press, 2014.

Wide-ranging in theme and context, Travelling Without Gods explores the imaginative effects of Chris Wallace-Crabbe’s writing and in many ways suggests an alternative cultural history of Australia since the 1950s. Containing biographical and critical pieces, poems (including new work by Chris) and essays that respond to his career Travelling without Gods takes account of the decades in which he has written. It illuminates, celebrates and critiques his work in its various contexts.
This book contains one of Seamus Heaney’s last poems and poetry and articles by David Malouf, Sir Andrew Motion, Peter Goldsworthy and many more.


Garron Publishing, 2018

“In Pre-Raphaelite and Other Prose Poems, there’s beauty and chaos, an ethereal quality fracturing edges, as Cassandra gives us poems about loss, desire and resolve in various stages.”

– JV Birch


Grand Parade Poets, 2015

“Exhumed” opens with an epigraph from DG Rossetti: a letter in which he describes recovering the book of poems that he interred with his wife. Atherton’s intertexts (interred texts) work in that register of death, love and betrayal. Much of the power of these prose poems comes from their complexity of tone. If the speaker of these poems is characterised by desire – alike for love, glamour, sex, food, consumer goods and a life as real as it seems in fiction – still the poems work to place this voice at a distance. Sensuous and emotionally charged though they are, their effect is often satiric. Atherton’s intertexts work not like an echo chamber so much as a three-sided mirror placed in a mirrored box, creating depth by reflections, distortions, strange juxtapositions and an interplay of surfaces. Exhumed is lush, canny, fast-paced and alive with wit.”

- Lisa Gorton

“Cassandra Atherton’s nervy style is distinct from an earlier generation of prose poets (Joanne Burns, Gary Catalano, Ania Walwicz); it feels both post-punk and post-John Forbes.”

– Michael Farrell, The Australian.

“It seems that for Atherton experience can excavate uncanny resonances; for this writer-as-reader, the canon perhaps acts as a repository of thematic models, patterns, and ideals as if a searchable archive reconstituted in this book in a mode Majorie Perloff terms elsewhere (and in other contexts) as récriture. If these texts are indeed expressions of desire, as [Lisa] Gorton asserts, then here is a poet ventriloquizing a pantheon of archetypes in order to extend fragmentarily and formally into narrative, her catharses presented as participatory and multi-vocal prose-like inventions.”

– Dan Disney, Antipodes


Finlay Lloyd Publishers, 2015

“Small publisher Finlay Lloyd has been producing a series called FL Smalls – 60-page bookettes created by commissioning particular authors to create a work within that space. Cassandra Atherton’s contribution is a collection of thematically and stylistically linked prose poems full of startling imagery and lush sensuality. Some of these are addressed to the reader, others to a lover, explicitly male: he has an Adam’s apple, he shaves in a U shape. The dense, intense prose is often funny, and incorporates all kinds of cultural allusions. These are mostly about writers: Shakespeare and Nabokov feature heavily, and there are also moments with Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams and a host of others, milling around promiscuously in Atherton’s prose with Veronica Lake, Gai and Robbie Waterhouse, and White Wings cake mix. It’s fun and clever, and some of it is lovely.” (Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald).

- Lisa Gorton


with Alyson Miller and Phil Day
[funded by a VicArts Grant]
Mountains Brown Press, 2018

This graphic prose poetry novel combines the 70 anniversary of the first atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima with the 150 anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice goes down the rabbit-hole and finds herself in the wasteland of Hiroshima. She is forced to renegotiate a world where little makes sense and the power of technology is the new force with which to be reckoned.

International Poetry Studies Institute chapbooks

Authorised Theft and Recent Work Press, 2015 –

These chapbooks form a series with Jen Webb, Paul Hetherington, Paul Munden and Jordan Williams.

Sketch Notes

with artist and publisher, Phil Day.

Mountains Brown Press, 2014 –

This project is described as, ‘prose poems by Cassandra Atherton and picture paintings by Phil Day’.
They are limited edition art books with prose poems. Sketch Notes was purchased by the Victorian State Library, National Library of Australia, Deakin University library and the Baillieu Library.

In So Many Words:

Interviews with Writers, Scholars and Intellectuals

Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2013

Cassandra is an established interviewer and prime scholar on American public intellectuals. In So Many Words features interviews with eleven of the most influential intellectuals, scholars and writers in the United States. Building on the earlier model of the Paris Review interviews with major writers, Atherton has applied a similar methodology to her book of interviews. From Noam Chomsky to Camille Paglia, Harold Bloom and Todd Gitlin, Atherton prioritises the original question and answer format to allow these luminaries to speak in their own voices. Her interviews are informed not only by the published writings and speeches of her wide-ranging group of subjects, but by direct knowledge of their ideas. Atherton discusses her interviews in a series of personal introductions, lending an intimacy to each piece. In this way, the reader is invited into the office, bar, café or home of the interviewee to listen to the interview unfold.
As a collection of interviews, this book investigates the role of the public intellectual in America. By way of incisive and well researched questioning, Atherton enters the debate about whether pubic intellectuals should work in academe and how the writing and teaching processes in academe are linked to the public intellectual’s work. The nature and role of the public intellectual has undergone major change over the last two decades. From both inside and outside the academy such figures have featured increasingly prominently in public debate and discussion. In this book, Atherton attempts to discover just how and why these changes have occurred and what the current state of play is. This book responds to arguments that the public intellectual is endangered, dead or in decline. It posits the re-birth of the American public intellectual through a reinvention of him/herself in the New Media.
Interviews are with: Harold Bloom, Noam Chomsky, Jim Cullen, Dana Gioia, Todd Gitlin, Jim Green, Kenneth T. Jackson, Paul Kane, Stephen Greenblatt, Camille Paglia, Howard Zinn.

More information

The Best Australian Poems 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017

Black Inc. Books

Cassandra’s poems, ‘Bonds’, ‘P.R.B’, ‘Anonymous’, ‘Plum(b)’ and ‘Gypsy’ have appeared in the annual Best Australian Poems publication.

The Man Jar

Printed Matter Press, Tokyo and New York, 2010.

Taking Nabokov’s Lolita as its starting point and framing theme, The Man Jar explores the allure of adolescent sexuality from a variety of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ viewpoints. Moving from the seducer to the seduced, from one seduction to another, fragments work like a voyeur’s glimpses into secret or forbidden worlds. The cut, mixed and spliced scenes relate obliquely to each other – reminiscent of Roland Barthes’ approach in A Lover’s Discourse – and in this way make a series of lightly interconnecting narratives that are held together by hints and partial revelations. The Man Jar uses a narrator in the style of Scheherezade to draw together the competing narratives while prioritising a structure that reflects the indirectness or furtiveness of many of the fictional encounters. It lures the reader gently into each sequence and yet perhaps not quite into complicity with it. One of the pleasures of this novel is the experience of chasing the clues discovering the connections and recognising the various lovers as they glide in and out of the narrative spotlight.

‘Cassandra’s fiction is unlike the writing of anyone else in Australia, with its great sharpness of vision and richly orchestrated vocabulary.’

-Chris Wallace-Crabbe

‘Brilliant…Atherton handles a sensitive topic with great flair and aplomb… achieving results through inventive play.’

-Kateryna Longley

After Lolita

Ahadada Press, Tokyo and Toronto, 2010.

After Lolita is a collection of prose poetry, poetry and micro fiction written in a polyphony of poetic voices. Through a series of fractured identities, After Lolita investigates the destabilisation of self. Nymphets and nympholepts function as linking characterisations.

“Cassandra has built up a strong reputation as an inventive prose poet, exploring the interface of cultural production and eroticism in performative, frequently comic, and always inventive prose poems.”

-Marion May Campbell
Excerpt available for download by publisher.

Flashing Eyes and Floating Hair

A Reading of Gwen Harwood’s Pseudonymous Poetry

Australian Scholarly Publishing, May 2007.

A specialist on Australian poet, Gwen Harwood’s poetry, in Flashing Eyes and Floating Hair, Atherton investigates the way in which Harwood’s pseudonymous oeuvre can be read through the filter of a series of subpersonalities. By reading each of Harwood’s pseudonyms as subpersonalities, poems written as Walter Lehmann, Francis Geyer, Miriam Stone, Timothy Kline and even Alan Carvosso and WW Hagendoor, (pseudonyms discovered more recently by Kratzmann), become an orchestra of personalities who each emphasizes different elements in her writing.

“Atherton’s is academic writing in the best sense of that abused adjective: argumentative, lucid, grounded in extensive research, sustained by lively intelligence and harnessed to a bright idea. There is room for another book from this talented critic.”

-Jennifer Strauss, Australian Book Review

“On Flashing Eyes and Floating Hair “A serious and sustained piece of original work, effectively researched and communicated, and constitutes a genuine contribution to our knowledge about the poetry of Gwen Harwood.”

-Paul Kane

Editor of Poetry Journals and Anthologies

Cassandra is series editor and judge of the Spineless Wonders microlit anthologies.

Australian poetry journal

Work: Special Edition Australian Poetry Journal, Benjamin Laird and Cassandra Atherton eds., 2017.

Cordite poetry review

Ekphrasis: Special Edition of Cordite Poetry Review, Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton, 2017.

Rabbit: a journal for non-fiction poetry

Prose Poetry: Special Edition of Rabbit: Non-Fiction Poetry Journal, issue 19, Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington, RMIT, Melbourne, 2016.

Mascara literary review

Cassandra curated the prose poetry in Issue 16, 2014.

Еkleksographia: the victoria edition

Ahadada Press, 2010.

Ekleksographia is an international journal of digital text-work. Atherton was invited to curate a Victorian edition. She wanted to highlight the incredibly talented poets in her state of Victoria, Australia and was keen to showcase Victorian poets at very different points in their careers. Her edition embraces not only the developing and established poets who have already made incredible names for themselves throughout Australia and internationally, but also a series of emerging Victorian poets, who are the poets of tomorrow.

Media International Australia (MIA) special edition on Public Intellectuals.

(with Prof David Marshall)

Looking Glass World

(with artwork by Robin Wallace-Crabbe)
Mountains Brown Press

This copper plate etching references Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. The poetry appears backwards to reference Alice going through the glass and acting from the tain of the mirror. In his etchings, Robin Wallace-Crabbe interprets the characters in Carroll’s text with wit and aplomb.

Axon special edition on The Poetics of Collaboration

with Dr Antonia Pont

Griffith Review:

A Quarterly of New Writing and Ideas

(with Prof David Marshall)

One of Cassandra’s favourite publications, she has been published three times in this esteemed literary journal. Her memoir, ‘Home is Where the Heart is’ explores concepts of home from a Moonee Ponds dwelling, Americanophile’s point of view. ‘Staffroom Confidential’ outlines the rigors of teaching in secondary schools and the waning respect for teachers in the media. ‘Mentioning the War’ investigates the Silent generations’ views of Japan and couples these with a discussion of her trip to Hiroshima.