Novelist and Poet Clare Pollard's Novels by Poets

By Viking Books UK

By Viking Books UK

Clare Pollard's debut novel Delphi is published in hardback by Fig Tree: a mesmerising story of our pasts, our presents and our futures, and how we keep on living in a world that is ever-more uncertain and absurd. To celebrate its release, Pollard has chosen some of her favourite novels written by poets.


I’ve always written across genres, and a lot of my favourite novelists do too. Writing poetry teaches you so much about the relationship between form and content, and really makes you pay attention to language at the level of the line – reading it aloud, checking the rhythm, making sure every word is exactly right and has earned its place. There are currently a lot of superb poets crossing over into prose – Daisy Lafarge, Joe Dunthorne, Luke Kennard, Kei Miller, Ocean Vuong, Polly Clark, AK Blakemore, Sam Riviere and Mona Arshi amongst others – all of whom I’d highly recommend, but here are some of the originals.  

The Sorrows of Young Werther (Dodo Press)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Goethe wrote this aged 24, and became a literary celebrity overnight with young men throughout Europe getting ‘Werther Fever’, and the book blamed for a spate of copycat suicides.

Wuthering Heights (Vintage Classics Bronte Series)

Emily Bronte

£8.99 £8.54

Emily Bronte is a real poet’s novelist. I mean, there are so many passages you want to underline, that have the same poetic intensity as Shakespeare: ‘I cannot live without my life!’

Lady Chatterley's Lover

D. H. Lawrence

£7.99 £7.59

Lawrence’s paragraphs read like prose poems, they are so dense with ideas and music. The descriptions of female orgasm are remarkable: ‘Rippling, rippling, like a flapping overlap of soft flames, soft as feathers, running to points of brilliance, exquisite and melting her all molten inside’.

The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath

£9.99 £9.49

Poets are very experienced at writing an ‘I’ that is a kind of performance of self – using fiction to get closer to truth. It’s unsurprising a lot of early examples of ‘autofiction’ are by poets. No one is a better image-maker than Plath and a lot of her metaphors are seared into my soul (like when she compares Buddy’s penis to ‘turkey neck and turkey gizzards’).

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

Elizabeth Smart

£9.99 £9.49

More early autofiction. A good novel often takes 200 pages to make you cry, whereas a good poem can get you there in two lines. Not that one is better – it’s just a different degree of intensity. This novel somehow sustains a poem-level of intensity all the way through. It’s wild. Angela Carter described it as ‘like Madame Bovary blasted by lightning’.

Maud Martha (Faber Editions): 'I loved it and want everyone to read this lost literary treasure.' Bernardine Evaristo

Gwendolyn Brooks

£9.99 £9.49

This novel by one of my favourite poets, Gwendolyn Brooks, has recently been republished by Faber and Faber. It’s so deft and graceful - a whole life somehow distilled into a few perfect pages.

Chelsea Girls

Mx Eileen Myles

£8.99 £8.54

Another autobiographical novel. Myles is so good at capturing the texture of life, from the start you’re just there with them, having a shrimp salad sandwich and beer then heading to a gay bar, savouring everything.

Post Office

Charles Bukowski

£9.99 £9.49

Bukowski used to be a big deal when I started out in poetry. I think his star has fallen a bit, but I love his early novels about his alter-ego and anti-hero, the barfly Henry Chinaski, drinking, gambling and falling in and out of relationships whilst working as a mailman.

Novel on Yellow Paper

Stevie Smith

£9.99 £9.49

This strange, droll novel feels incredibly modern now, with its digressive style and dark wit.

The Bloater: The brilliantly original rediscovered classic comedy of manners

Rosemary Tonks

£8.99 £8.54

Rosemary Tonks has long been a poet with a huge cult following as a kind of female Baudelaire, whose witty, thrilling poems leave you reeling. Fantastically, her very funny novel The Bloater has just been republished, with an introduction by Stewart Lee (who I’ve always felt is himself a kind of poet).

Clare Pollard is an award-winning poet and playwright based in London. She is the author of five poetry collections – her first published when she was just 18! - and was the Editor of the Modern Poetry in Translation magazine until June 2022. Clare's play The Weather premiered at the Royal Court Theatre and her translation projects include a version of Ovid's Heroines, which she toured as a one-woman show. Delphi is her first novel, published by Fig Tree in July 2022.

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