The Paris Review

A Poet’s Complaints Against Fiction

Leonid Pasternak, The Passion of Creation. 1892

First, a word about the traditional feud between poets and fiction writers. I wish to acknowledge, up front, that that feud does not exist. Not traditionally. Conditions in the wild are very unfavorable to it. To witness episodes of this feud, you have to visit a special kind of mismanaged zoo called an M.F.A. program.

Perhaps I needn’t add that it is not my object to prosecute any such feud here. Let me be explicit: I revere the great novelists as much as I revere the great poets. I do not see poetry as the higher form—with all the opprobrium that implies. Whereas, fiction writers strike me as delightfully removed from any familiar mode of being. They have houses and lifestyles. And they traffic in plots, an inherently good idea.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review10 min read
Dinner with Martin Amis
The one time I had an opportunity to meet Martin Amis, I ended up taking heroin instead. I’m not especially proud of this fact, it was a kind of accident, but also perhaps a lucky swerve from the more difficult experience of having to have dinner wit
The Paris Review3 min read
The Nobel Prize Was Made for Olga Tokarczuk
Olga Tokarczuk. Photo: © K. Dubiel. I’ve been saying it for years! Every fall, the big night would come and I would set my alarm for four or six or eight in the morning, depending on my time zone, and then not sleep because I was sure Olga Tokarczuk
The Paris Review4 min read
The Most Interior Text of the 1300s
It’s not the one you think… Decameron—that’s a long book. I powered through it this past summer. I was like a self-propelled lawn mower, had to be. I had a lot of big books on my to-do list. Each one of ’em was allotted two weeks and no more. I “had