Poets + Novels = Poetic Novel?

I just finished reading Wintering by Kate Moses.  The book is a fictional account of Sylvia Plath’s life and takes place in the last year or so before her suicide.  I can’t say that I loved the prose — in some ways the writing was a bit cold and detached.  However, the story gave me a new understanding of Plath, and after completing the book, I went and picked up my worn copy of Plath’s collected poems to re-read some of the poems mentioned in the novel.  Furthermore, the author offered a chronology of important events in Plath’s life, including dates where she drafted and/or wrote specific poems.

For me, the book brings up a lot of interesting ideas.  A few weeks ago, I took a workshop under poet Andrew Mulvania, and during the course of the class, he mentioned that he wrote a review of five books that depicted the lives of poets.  The review was published in the Missouri Review and because the subject interested me so, I ordered the issue.

In his article, Andrew reviews the following books: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn (Emily Dickinson); Exiles by Ron Hansen (Gerard Manley Hopkins); The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds (John Clare); Fall of Frost by Brian Hall (Robert Frost); and The More I Owe You by Michael Sledge (Elizabeth Bishop).  All of these books are now on my reading list. 

A few years ago I read The Hours and then watched the movie.  The combination of the two really gave me a clearer understanding of Virginia Woolf — so much so that I think I became both a better reader and a better teacher of her works.  I’m hoping that reading these books about poets’ lives will do the same for me.

On a final note, if you know of any fictional accounts of poets’ lives, please let me know.  I will add the titles to my reading list.


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