Prose works by poets

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Based on reading some shitty capsule review of Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Then reading about Pasternak's Safe Conduct[i].

Pessoa's [i]The Book of Disquiet

This one should be on the Obscure Books thread - from this article on the LRB.

In Berlin, Gu Cheng wrote one of the strangest books ever written: Ying’er, which he called his ‘dream of the Gu Cheng chamber’, a barely fictionalised account, with long passages of physical detail, of the love affair and its break-up. It is obsessive and hallucinated, narcissistic and self-pitying, precise and incoherent, kitschy and terrifying – in the end perhaps more of a document than a piece of literature, and now impossible to read at a purely aesthetic distance.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 21:42 (fourteen years ago) link

pessoa was a poet? amirite

I always preferred rilke's prose

cozwn, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 21:45 (fourteen years ago) link

sorry I've not actually read any of pessoa's poetry

cozwn, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 21:54 (fourteen years ago) link

They are all primarily known/worked as poets. Although its a bit more distorted when it comes to Pasternak -- who I guess is more known for Doctor Zhivago, and most people (including me) have only read The Book of Disquiet

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:01 (fourteen years ago) link

Well, to get the bleedin obvious out of the way Jill and A Girl in Winter by Larkin are both very good.

And Peri Bathous or the Art of Sinking in Poetry by Alexander Pope is excellent, and I think has just been reissued by itself.

GamalielRatsey, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:07 (fourteen years ago) link

I second the Larkin recommendations. Also: Elizabeth Bishop's short stories, esp. "In the Village."

post-contrarian meta-challop 2009 (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:09 (fourteen years ago) link

cozwn, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:12 (fourteen years ago) link

cozwn, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:13 (fourteen years ago) link

The Dyer's Hand amongst other things by Auden as well.

GamalielRatsey, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:30 (fourteen years ago) link

Some of Ted Hughes' short fiction is also excellent--there's agreat story, the title of which I now can't remember, about a man who wakes up in the middle of nowhere, in a blizzard, with a chair tied to his back, and he has to work out what the hell is going on. And I second(third) the Larkin and Bishop love.

I've got that Rilke novel, and Pessoa's "novel", but have yet to tackle either. I really enjoy the plays of Lorca, if they count as prose.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:23 (fourteen years ago) link

Neruda wrote a surreal novella called El Habitante Y Su Esperanza early in his career. After 20 Poemas but before the Residencias. It's pretty good. Not sure if it would be easy to find in English.

123456789 (jim), Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:39 (fourteen years ago) link

For non-critical Auden, there's also The Orators, especially the 'Journal of an Airman' section (think the Blue Aeroplanes turned a bit of this into a song). Nearer the strange non-novels mentioned at top of thread.

Yeats's mystical stories fit the bill I'd say - Rosa Alchemica, all that. Also his autobiographies, maybe the Irish folkloric stuff.

Coleridge's Biographia Literaria nudges into the strange-prose-by-poet category.

I think of Robert Graves primarily as a poet, so he might have a place here - The White Goddess is one of the great odd books. Mystic/mythic vision of poet's role wrapped in baffling pretend scholarship.

I'm not sure it's quite what xyzzz's after, but there's a lot of poet-critic stuff I love - most of what's mentioned upthread (especially The Necessary Angel - whenever I read it, it's like "yup, following you, yes, still with you, ok, got you, wait what the hell just happened my brain hurts"), also Dryden's prefaces, Geoffrey Hill's criticism, Marianne Moore's writing for The Dial, Muldoon's lecture collections to an extent, etc. Empson might count, but I guess he's seen as primarily a critic. My exception's Matthew Arnold for some reason. Great fan of his poetry but have never got on with his prose.

Donne's sermons are the only religious prose I really like.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell might have a place here.

I know I'm missing some obvious things I like. Not really fully awake.

woofwoofwoof, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 10:37 (fourteen years ago) link

Is Blaise Cendrars primarily a poet? I came across him first as a poet, but I am loving the novels of his I've read, rare examples of surrealist(ish) novels which keep up their momentum.

Tim, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 11:02 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, I would categorise Cendrars as a poet, but his novels are great. The two Dan Yack stories are my favourites, I think. His mate Apollinaire wrote a bit of prose too, didn't he?

Pessoa's poetry is fantastic, would totally recommend that to all. I think that 'The Tobacconist' is probably the best place to start.

This is how it begins:

I am nothing.
I shall always be nothing.
I can only want to be nothing.
Apart from this, I have in me all the dreams in the world.

..and it just sort of spirals out from there.

If you're after poets writing literary criticism, Octavio Paz's work is superb IMO. Children of the Mire, Convergences and On Poets and Others spring to mind, but I think there are at least a dozen different prose works and collections of his that have been translated into English.

Peinlich Manoeuvre (NickB), Wednesday, 26 August 2009 11:21 (fourteen years ago) link

I'll look out for those Pazes. Pazs. Pazzes. Those Paz. And that reminds me - Joseph Brodsky's Less Than One. Haven't read it in ages, don't really enjoy his poetry (broken in translation?) but a v. good collection of (not just critical) essays, iirc.

woofwoofwoof, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 11:29 (fourteen years ago) link

Great fan of his poetry but have never got on with his prose.

For real -- a first-class pedant.

post-contrarian meta-challop 2009 (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 26 August 2009 11:30 (fourteen years ago) link

velko's example makes all others irrelevant.

However, Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers.

BTW, "Salutations to Fernando Pessoa" is one of the few Ginsberg poems I like. Apparently Pessoa wrote a poem called "Salutations to Walt Whitman." I have never read any Pessoa at all.

alimosina, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 13:29 (fourteen years ago) link

Mark Strand's Hopper -- one of my favorite books.

Q. Tarantino Presents: Popeye (Eazy), Wednesday, 26 August 2009 23:47 (fourteen years ago) link

that reminds me - wtf is my copy of abc of reading?

cozwn, Thursday, 27 August 2009 17:01 (fourteen years ago) link

It's upstairs.

GamalielRatsey, Thursday, 27 August 2009 17:11 (fourteen years ago) link

duz critical/occasional prose really count? that's practically part of the day job

thomp, Thursday, 27 August 2009 17:14 (fourteen years ago) link

from the page of the t.s. eliot book, above, btw:

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thomp, Thursday, 27 August 2009 17:27 (fourteen years ago) link

Poet-critical stuff definitely counts! I left it blank to see what you all would come up with. Not disappointed. So much here.

A couple of mentions I've already looked at. ABC of reading I couldn't get on with. Biographia... was telling me something, not sure what though. Its one of those times when you think the person writing it underwent a shutdown of sorts. Really fascinating and I need my own copy of it.

Really need to get hold of Pessoa's poetry.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 27 August 2009 20:19 (fourteen years ago) link

'in the american grain', then — it's very william carlos williams-y

thomp, Thursday, 27 August 2009 20:31 (fourteen years ago) link

seven years pass...

This needs an update huh. Coming to the end of Dyer's Hand by Auden and what it most reminds me of is Less than One by Brodsky. Both are poets I don't feel very strongly about (although I've read a lot more by Brodsky as it happens), and I suppose they were friends but there is that authority combined with an easy-going conversational approach. Brodsky can be a lot more rigorous and focused, both are very addictive. Neither of them do a prose by poets that is my head in the last few years of reading this stuff: not this fast, very strange, impressionistic, pure white abstraction take on stuff, as if things are on the edge of falling apart. No, this is very good Hazlitt like English essayistic argumentative iron construction prose, which is probably my favourite kind of England-English prose.

The kind of thing I was thinking which is yes by Rilke (not only Malte but the Letters - picked up two vols worth, all-round addictive) and Pessoa (I picked up another vol of writings and it wasn't all that, shows what a unique thing The Book of Disquiet is)...

Over the years I've found more of it:

- Tsvetaeva: A Captive Spirit
- Mandesltam: Armenian Journey, his essay on Dante, much else
- Celan: his stuff is bizarre, there is a 'story' in the Penguin book of German short stories. I know a vol of prose is about..
- Ingeborg Bachmann: Malina
- Pavese: The Moon and the Bonfires (well after a while both prose and poetry are hard to distinguish, that feeling for country and people)
- Pushkin: The Captain's Daughter

The biggest disappointment in this area was some of Brecht's prose. I consider him a poet (and one of the best) but then again he was just as much of a playwright so writes more like that raher than a poet. Couldn't get into the short story volume I picked up earlier this year.

Apart from all that the unexpected was a look at Empson's notes to his volume of poetry, split-atom thought that never clarifies anything (despite the best of intentions) and what, exactly? You are always attempting to follow, with a smile.

I am curious to pick up something by Holderlin and Saba's Ernesto which is getting an issue on NYRB next year. Plath.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 22 November 2016 21:56 (seven years ago) link,204,203,200_.jpg

^haven't had a chance to read yet: but includes diaries, letters, reminiscences of fellow poets, her writings on pushkin (100+ pages in all), criticism, etc.

no lime tangier, Wednesday, 23 November 2016 10:59 (seven years ago) link

Excellent - not mad about Akhmatova's poetry but I'll keep an eye out for this.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 23 November 2016 23:34 (seven years ago) link

one year passes...

Chased down the Celan vol I mentioned in my last update. Its good, mostly enigmatic things on the page to a couple of more 'restrained' speeches when accepting prizes. The volume collecting Celan's correspondence with Bachmann is something of a classic too (on Seagull books). I gave Malina a re-read this year too.

I've also read lots of Plath's prose and poems: The Bell Jar is a nice enough debut, but Letters Home (her correspondence with her mother) is where I find the heart breaking. The strangeness of shape isn't there so much and that's what prompted this thread but often a poet does write like a novelist, although we will never know how Plath would have developed.

Earlier this year NYRB put out a re-issue of Tsvetaeva's Earthy Signs, which is mostly great:

This is an edition of Vallejo's writings in English. Maybe one day:

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 17 June 2018 11:30 (five years ago) link

Some good stuff here: novels written by poets Maybe Bukowski's collected stories too? Not that familiar with his poetry or prose (although Lester Bangs got him to write a shrewd take on a Stones concert for Creem).

dow, Sunday, 17 June 2018 20:57 (five years ago) link

Not only novels on that thread. also for inst Lowell's plays. I've got Larkin's A Girl In Winter but haven't read it---good?

dow, Sunday, 17 June 2018 20:59 (five years ago) link

four years pass...

Heinrich Heine - Travel Pictures
Bei Dao - City Gate, Open Up

Back to reading prose by poets. The Heine is great. Its meant to be an account of journeys around mountains but the poet -- who is so often meant to be focused on a thing, if I were to make this huge assumption -- is relishing the space to not be a poet, to not focus, to let fly. Yet its just about anchored on a concrete reality. Little imagination, just these thought flights.

That said the Dao is structured with chapters titles "Smells", "Sounds"...which allows for something more focused. Really devouring this one.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 30 November 2022 22:33 (one year ago) link

"Donne's sermons are the only religious prose I really like."

I reread the above and actually there is a sermon by Manley Hopkins that is a really intense bit of writing. The love for God has led to powerful writing and I quite like to explore it. I would do a thread on it if I assemble enough material.

A couple of weeks ago I came across talk of these Baroque Sermona from Padre Antonio Vieira, who is someone Pessoa talked about re-reading in The Book of Disquiet.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 1 December 2022 11:11 (one year ago) link

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