Poetry News

Idra Novey Reviews Luke Kennard's First Prose

By Harriet Staff
Luke Kennard, The Transition, cover

At the Los Angeles Times, poet and novelist Idra Novey reads poet Luke Kennard's first book of prose, a novel called The Transition. Novey begins the review by exploring other poets' transitions between poetry and prose, remarking, "The prose writer who comes from poetry knows the dramatic potential of setting up a word pattern and then breaking it." From there: 

Poems and novels are both based on patterns, notes Eileen Myles, whose extraordinary, genre-defiant books have revealed what a writer can achieve when brave enough to disregard categorical expectations altogether. Recently, there has been something of an explosion in acclaimed works of prose from writers who first published as poets. In nonfiction, Maggie Nelson, Kevin Young, Eula Biss, Tracy K. Smith and Sarah Manguso. In recent fiction, Michael Ondaatje, Ben Lerner, Lucy Ives, Garth Greenwell, Alejandro Zambra, Max Porter and now the accomplished British poet Luke Kennard with an inventive first novel, "The Transition."

Set in a near future with ever more concentrated wealth for those at the top of the corporate pyramid and bewildering living costs and debt for everyone else, "The Transition" is bleak but prescient. Kennard's central character, Karl — like the male protagonists in Lerner's "Leaving Atocha Station" and Porter's "Grief Is the Thing With Feathers" — has an expertise in poetry. For his master's in English, Karl focused on the Metaphysical Poets. His wife, Genevieve, is a schoolteacher who keeps her manic tendencies in check with pills from a physician named Dr. Blend. Between them, they can barely afford shared quarters with other thirtysomethings, all of them considering what further moral or professional compromise to make in order to be solvent enough someday to consider having a child, or at least a bathroom of their own.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

Originally Published: January 19th, 2018