View Full Version : Prose authors who show a clear influence from poetry

23-04-2017, 12:23 PM
As the title says - any recommendations gladly received, either fiction or non-fiction. Recently I've been enjoying Claudia Rankine's 'Citizen: An American Lyric' (apparently described by some as a book-length poem, but I'd describe it as poetic prose), while David Peace and Olivia Laing are other recent favourites. Anyone who's clearly influenced by poetry as much as by prose - or indeed is a poet themselves.

No suggestion too obvious. To describe my knowledge of the classics as 'patchy' would be unnecessarily kind.

24-04-2017, 04:04 PM
William S Burroughs - recently read Naked Lunch and so much of it is about the rhythm of the words.

Charles Bukowski - started off in poetry, then short stories, then long form novels. And if you read the early novels, like post office, factotum etc, the individual sentences are like lines of his poetry, just organised as prose.

Bolano - famously an ex-poet, who continued with both forms.

Iain Sinclair - did a load of poetry through the 70s and 80s, then started on prose.

there's more I'm sure - I feel like I've read a lot of good stuff recently and then discovered the author started in poetry, and it doesn't surprise me anymore. if they start as poets, i think the prose writing seems to be better

24-04-2017, 04:11 PM
I see sinclairs mate b. Catling has been putting out novels too. Not sure if they're any good though.

24-04-2017, 05:12 PM
yeah i'm not into catling at all

24-04-2017, 07:56 PM
I'm not anti catling

. There's Anna kavan too. Could try that

24-04-2017, 08:16 PM
Is there a great poet who was also a great novelist, or vice versa? I doubt it. Different disciplines.

24-04-2017, 09:00 PM
thanks for those recommendations.

great poet and great novelist...that's a tricky one, and even a google search isn't turning up many top candidates

Bolano - famously an ex-poet, who continued with both forms.

there's more I'm sure - I feel like I've read a lot of good stuff recently and then discovered the author started in poetry, and it doesn't surprise me anymore. if they start as poets, i think the prose writing seems to be better

Bolaño - of course, should've thought of him. I thought Distant Star had some exceptional passages that were far from typical prose.

Agreed - I'm far more inclined to persist with prose if there's some rhythm and melody to the writing. I find many novels very hard going where that's not the case

24-04-2017, 09:03 PM
I suppose I'm inclined to ask why read story books at all. They're for children, morons and sub humans. Frankly I doubt you're reading enough poetry as it is. Read more poetry and leave the novels for Victorian housewives

24-04-2017, 09:23 PM
I'm certainly not a defender of the novel as a form. Too many wasted hours for that. Nowadays, if I don't find the first 20 pages compulsive, I tend to cut my losses. Novellas definitely preferred.

24-04-2017, 09:26 PM
You can cut that down to one paragraph if you practice

24-04-2017, 09:33 PM
I do tend to judge the first page harshly when scanning in bookshops. Staggering how some people get book deals

24-04-2017, 09:35 PM
Kavan is unreadable.

24-04-2017, 09:36 PM
Anything that ain't about spaceships is unreadable to you wrong thread mate

24-04-2017, 09:37 PM
Laser beams off the fucking shoulder of orion

24-04-2017, 09:41 PM
"the boosters engaged and we blasted into hyperspace. Stars whirled like diamonds in a washing machine. Sklr wrinkled her pretty blue nose, alien eyes black as infinite space. "our proton packs are seriously depleted commander. If we don't make planetfall in the next 12 earth hours we're toast"

24-04-2017, 09:41 PM
lol. Kavan's most famous work is dystopian post apocalyptic sci fi.

24-04-2017, 09:42 PM
How would you know? It's unreadable

24-04-2017, 09:43 PM
How do you think I found that out?

25-04-2017, 08:57 AM
Hardy - novels and poetry.
Kipling - short stories and poetry
Edward Thomas - Non fiction and poetry
Plath - Bell Jar and poetry

early Ondaatje is good on poery/prose

By Grand Central Station - Elizabeth Smart

must be others - contemporary writers like Ben Lerner and Maggie Nelson claim to be poets but I've not read enough to be convinced.

29-08-2017, 08:10 PM
The Peregrine by JA Baker - dear god, the prose is good. Cos I can't be bothered to go get the book and type something out, this will have to stand for many other worthy quotations:
"“I have always longed to be part of the outward life, to be out there at the edge of things, to let the human taint wash away in emptiness and silence as the fox sloughs his smell into the cold unworldliness of water; to return to town a stranger. Wandering flushes a glory that fades with arrival"

that great 'how to make friends with crows' article that Sufi posted earlier this year is surely an echo of this book too

30-08-2017, 09:52 AM
Surprised nobody's mentioned Joyce yet. Perhaps too obvious?

Cormac McCarthy's style in 'Blood Meridian' strikes many as being portentous and even ridiculous, but whether or not it works for you, it's obviously poetic - highly intense, full of quasi/psuedo Biblical intonation. I suppose McCarthy belongs to a tradition of American authors writing in a consciously poetic and archaic way - Faulkner, Melville, et al. (Not to mention Conrad.)

30-08-2017, 10:01 AM
cod-king james and faux-folksiness (forest gump) are the two main modes of american literature.
both equally stupid though the latter is more irritating.

30-08-2017, 11:14 AM
“So I wonder what it is this need to tell.
To animate somehow the deathly stillness of the profoundest beauty. Breathe life in the telling.”


“I think now that maybe true sweetness can only happen in limbo. I don't know why. Is it because we are so unsure, so tentative and waiting? Like it needs that much room, that much space to expand. The not knowing anything really, the hoping, the aching transience: This is not real, not really, and so we let it alone, let it unfold lightly. Those times that can fly.”


“I woke sometime in the middle of the night and lay in the hammock, wriggled my foot out of the sleeping bag into the chill and found the rough ground with my bare foot and rocked myself back and forth. And watched the stars swim against the mesh of leaves. Like a fish nosing a net.

This is what we are, what we do: nose a net, push push, a net that never exists. The knots in the mesh as strong as our own believing. Our own fears.”


“Something like laughter. That a flower could be this small, this fleeting, that a snowflake could be so large, so persistent. The improbable simplicity. I groaned. Why don't we have a word for the utterance between laughing and crying?”


“You can't metabolize the loss. It is in the cells of your face, your chest, behind the eyes, in the twists of your gut. Muscle, sinew, bone. It is all of you. When you walk you propel it forward....Then it sits with you. The pain puts its arm over your shoulders. It is your closest friend, steadfast. And at night you can't bear to hear your own breath, unaccompanied by another. And underneath the big stillness like a score, is the roaring of the cataract of everything being and being torn away. Then, the pain is lying beside your side, close. Does not bother you with the sound even of breathing.”

14-09-2017, 10:49 PM
“Suppose within each book there is another book, and within every letter on every page another volume constantly unfolding; but these volumes take no space on the desk. Suppose knowledge could be reduced to a quintessence, held within a picture, a sign, held within a place which is no place. Suppose the human skull were to become capacious, spaces opening inside it, humming chambers like beehives.”


"The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes: a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase, a woman’s sigh as she passes and leaves on the air a trail of orange flower or rose water; her hand pulling close the bed curtain, the discrete sigh of flesh against flesh."


"As the word of God spreads, the people's eyes are opened to new truths. Until now, like Helen Barre, they knew Noah and the Flood, but not St Paul. They could count over the sorrows of our Blessed Mother, and say how the damned are carried down to Hell. But they did not know the manifold miracles and sayings of Christ, nor the words and deeds of the apostles, simple men who, like the poor of London, pursued simple wordless trades. The story is much bigger than they ever thought it was."


“It's the living that turn and chase the dead. The long bones and skulls are tumbled from their shrouds, and words like stones thrust into their rattling mouths: we edit their writings, we rewrite their lives.”