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.

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