Poetry in novels

Posted: August 4, 2014 in default

‘Some days are born ugly.’ What a great start to a chapter. And a few pages later the same author penned this poetic piece: ‘…red geraniums burned the air around them. The delphiniums were like little openings in the sky.’ The writer? John Steinbeck. I have come late into his fold. After being won over by Cannery Row, which I read several months ago, I am now reading his follow up Sweet Thursday from which the quotes come.
Once again we meet the likes of Doc, Mack, Ed, the Bear Flag, the Palace Flophouse … but it’s Steinbeck’s ability to take a group of disparate people (bums, hookers, drunks), set them in a two-bit ordinary coastal Californian town and weave a marvellous story that careers through a whole range of human emotions.
And the package is laced with some stunning prose – lines and phrases that, as a poet, you just wished you thought of!

Interestingly, when reading the current issue of Rialto this morning I came across a poem by Mimi Khalvati – Bringing Down The Stars – which opens up with the following lines:

As a mouse sniffs for cheese, so I, reading novels,
am sniffing out scintillas. Sometimes they are few

but enough to keep me going, at other times rare
and completely enchanting, whole pages, paragraphs,

bringing starlight down to earth.

Whether author or poet, words used well can just lift you into wonderful realms.

jul 20 perfect sunday


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