Brian Phillips suggests that very few people have written both successful prose and poetry [“Cocteau and Catfish: On Poets’ Fiction,” May 2009]. I am far from an expert in the field, but my own reading indicates that his accounting omits Robert Penn Warren, Robert Graves, and James Dickey. Dave Smith has written a fine novel called Onliness; Rilke wrote The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, and Donald Hall has produced an attractive collection of short stories called The Ideal Bakery. Anne Brontë wrote poetry, Conrad Aiken wrote fiction and poetry. Virginia Woolf is often said to have written poetic fiction; and Dow Mossman’s The Stones of Summer comes to mind in this context as well.
I think that many writers have always expressed themselves in both fiction and poetry. I agree with Phillips that many poets write worthy fiction. I would contend, however, that they always have.