Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Novelish poets and poetic novelists
I just posted this query on FB, but on reflection maybe this is a better place....

Good/important poets who were or are also good/important (though not necessarily prolific) novelists? My small-hours list was a very short one for the adult canon: Sir Walter Scott, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin at a pinch.

Within children's literature one could add RLS, Walter de la Mare, John Masefield, C. Day Lewis, A. A. Milne, Ted Hughes.

I'm sure I've missed out many obvious names. Whom can we add to both lists? (No peeking at reference books or Google-goggling, mind!)

ETA: Suggestions I feel foolish for not putting in the original list: Kipling, Graves, Wilde, Peake, HD, Bryer.

Oh, and Sir Philip Sidney, if Arcadia counts as a novel.

Rudyard Kipling springs immediately to mind.

I should certainly have thought of him! A few others have also been suggested on FB by now, but the other one I kicked myself hard over was Robert Graves. I comfort myself that this is a small-hours list, made while a cat was stamping on my face - for ever.

I comfort myself that this is a small-hours list, made while a cat was stamping on my face - for ever.

At this point I am very nearly free-associating names on your Facebook, so do not feel bad about the people you did not think of! I don't even have the excuse of a cat!

Spike Milligan also did both and I consider him important even if no one else does!

Oh, so do I. A novelist for adults and poet for children, then. (And the other way round for Gertrude Stein!)

He also wrote some pretty deep poetry for adults- in 'Small Dreams of a Scorpion.'

Ok he is a playwright but i would include Bertolt brecht.

I wonder if he did write any novels? I've not come across any, but I wouldn't have, necessarily.

He didn't, that I know of.

Siegfried Sassoon?

Oddly I did think of him, but I've never read Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man and wasn't sure if it was a novel or a memoir, or something in between.

Technically it's a novel - the narrator is called George Sherston, he's brought up by an aunt rather than his mother, he doesn't appear to write poetry, etc etc, though the general narrative is very close to Sassoon's own story. I suppose you could call it a roman a clef; Robert Graves appears as David Cromlech, Bertrand Russell as Thornton Tyrrell - though W. H. R. Rivers is so important that he is depicted under his real name.

Do try it - it's very important to me, though I'm biased by the fact that Sassoon was a second cousin of my grandfather (hence icon).

Edited at 2014-08-01 04:34 pm (UTC)

Stevie Smith. Novel on Yellow Paper is pretty good.

G.K. Chesterton.

I'd list de la Mare as an adult novelist. He can't have intended Memoirs of a Midget for kids. Or can he?

Dr Johnson: Rasselas and Vanity of Human Wishes

Oliver Goldsmith: Vicar of Wakefield and the Deserted Village. (Goldsmith- like Wilde- achieved the triple and wrote important plays too.

All great additions - thank you! (Also someone mentioned Swift on FB - I clearly blanked the eighteenth century.)

De la Mare did write at least one important children's novel - The Three Royal Monkeys.

Of course Tolkien and CSL.

I hadn't thought of Memoirs of a Midget in years. But next to it in my grandmother's glass fronted bookcase which smelled appropriately of leather bindings, souvenir pine cones, and mice, was Lilith. Surely George MacDonald wrote some poetry too?

There are certainly poems in some of MacDonald's books (Phantastes has some rather long ones - I set the ballad of Sir Aglovaile when I was a teenager), though I'm not sure if any were published separately. A bit like the case of Lewis Carroll in that respect, I suppose.

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Perhaps he falls at the 'good/important' fence, then?

Roald Dahl, if Revolting Rhymes etc can count. Though possibly that doesn't count as good/important poetry.

Jack Kerouac. William S Burroughs also wrote poetry but I did not rate it as much as his novels.

Alice Walker.

I think Dahl counts: his poetry wasn't amazing, but it's certainly well loved.

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How on earth did I forget GMB!?

STW popped into my head, but I wasn't 100% sure she was a poet.

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Thank you - and for Mitchison, again known to me only as a novelist.

Lewis Carroll is my first thought.

I'm trying to remember whether I've seen any poetry by Carroll that was published separately from his fiction. Not that that necessarily matters! Some of those poems are undoubtedly classics in their own right.

The Hunting of the Snark, of course!

Of course! How could I forget?

Jane Yolen.



Melville. James Merrill. Lovecraft. Meredith. Denis Johnson.

I didn't realize Melville wrote poetry! Meredith I should certainly have thought of.

My uncle once shared this Melville poem with me, which certainly was a perfect poem to share with me:

"Fragments Of A Lost Gnostic Poem Of The Twelfth Century"

Found a family, build a state,
The pledged event is still the same:
Matter in end will never abate
His ancient brutal claim.

Indolence is heaven’s ally here,
And energy the child of hell:
The Good Man pouring from his pitcher clear
But brims the poisoned well.

Gosh, what a strangely elliptical poem for such a wordy novelist! It's as if he's been channeling Emily Dickinson.

Is this English only? I'm surprised not to have run into Rilke and Goethe.

In English: Edgar Allen Poe, Samuel Beckett, Djuna Barnes, Weldon Kees, Chinua Achebe, Jean Toomer, Thomas Disch. And David Jones if he counts.

And if Sidney counts, surely Robert Burton does too, and maybe even Coleridge.

No, it's not English only. Rilke and Goethe have shown up at my FB (as has Disch) - but not Poe or Djuna Barnes, both of whom I should certainly have thought of: thank you. I hadn't realized Beckett or Achebe were poets, or that David Jones was a novelist. Kees and Toomer I'm afraid I've not come across except as names.

I don't think either Burton or Coleridge wrote novels, though Burton was certainly an important prose writer. (Having slogged my way through Biographia Literaria as an undergraduate I'm not convinced the same can be said for STC.)

I'm a fan of Biographia Literaria, but I know it's not for all tastes. Also: Aphra Behn!

Non-English writers: Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Ingeborg Bachmann, Georg Buchner, Robert Walser, Cesare Pavese, Mikhail Lermontov, Ivan Bunin, Boris Pasternak, Fernando Pessoa, Vladimir Nabokov, Pushkin, Andre Breton, Gerard de Nerval, Jose Lezama Lima, Julio Cortazar, Alejo Carpentier, Raymond Queneau, Jacques Roubaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Roberto Bolano,Dezső Kosztolányi, Bohumil Hrabal, Stanislaw Witkiewicz,

That's a splendid list!

I think In Parenthesis qualifies as a novel, certainly as much as Jean Toomer's Cane is. It's more prose than verse, meets novelistic requirements. The Anethamata was described by Jones as "a heap," which sounds more like a novel than a poem, though I see it as a poem.

Beckett's early poetry collection Echo's Bones is well worth reading, while his late poetry doesn't strike me as much. He won his first prize in 1930 for "Whoroscope," narrated by Descartes, still one of his best:

What’s that?
An egg?
By the brother Boot it stinks fresh.
Give it to Gillot.

Galileo how are you
and his consecutive thirds!
The vile old Copernican lead-swinging son of a sutler!
We’re moving he said we’re off—Porca Madonna!
the way a boatswain would be, or a sack-of-potatoey charging Pretender.
That’s not moving, that’s moving.

It's not how I imagine Descartes talking, but it sounds like a great Beckett-Moliere crossover!

If Sidney counts, I'd throw in Mary Wroth and Margaret Cavendish, too!

Yes, why not?

Did Mary Shelley write poetry, I wonder?

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Edna O'Brien, maybe?

Oh! Margaret Atwood, of course!

Atwood has been mentioned at FB, but not O'Brien. Again, I didn't realise she was a poet.


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