Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Verse novels

I was telling my Mom about what I have been reading lately, and I mentioned having re-read Glyn Maxwell's latest book, "The Sugar Mile," which is a verse novel. She asked me to suggest a few verse novels for "an avid reader". Here are my favorites among the contemporary verse novels I have read over the past seven or eight years:

Les Murray, Fredy Neptune
Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red
Brad Leithauser, Darlington's Fall
Glyn Maxwell, Time's Fool
Glyn Maxwell, The Sugar Mile
John Barr, Grace

The one that I do not recommend at all is W.S. Merwin's "The Folding Cliffs," which is dramatically weakened by Merwin's standard practice of using no punctuation at all! That may be okay in shorter poems, but it is exhausting over hundreds of pages.

Of the six listed above, I had an interesting experience regarding two of them: Fredy Neptune and Time's Fool. Both of these are hugely entertaining books, but when I thought about re-reading them, I found myself unable (in the case of FN) or unwilling (in the case of TF) to do so. They are long, rich books, but once felt like enough -- the thought of reading them again was exhausting!

It's possible that I made the mistake of re-reading Fredy Neptune with the idea of writing about it. That slowed the reading down enough that it dragged and I staggered to a halt. Also, as I am now re-reading a lot of Maxwell, I am getting more interested in the idea of re-reading TF.

If you read this and know of some other good verse novels, please list them in the comments! I love them!


Suz said...


I'm working on Sugar Mile now, as per your suggestion. I picked it up, along with Glyn's previous book, Nerve, last week. Nerve had some really nice poems too. I'll have comments on Sugar Mile soon.

carolyn said...

The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. Wow, it's over 20 years old already! I read it about 10 years ago, just after Bella was born, and still remember it vividly. Although that's probably because I haven't read many novels since then...

Anonymous said...

Jimmy & Rita by Kim Addonizio is an excellent verse novel.

Andrew Shields said...

Thanks, Theresa, I have noted that one down.

Allison said...

Hi Andrew,

I came across your blog post listing verse novels and if I may, I'd highly recommend Nabokov's translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.

Another recent one is Kamal by Zireaux. I liked it as well.