As a poet, it is almost impossible for me to read literature not centered on the language itself – which is why I have severe difficulties reading most crime fiction. A good plot or great story is not enough for me. I need the language to be precise, sensual, intense, and distinctive. I love novelists like Vladimir Nabokov, Marguerite Duras, Paula Fox (please read Desperate Characters if you haven’t already!), and Per Petterson for just this reason. But these aren’t poets; even if their language verges on the poetic, they still fit the usual paradigm that poets write only poetry, fiction writers only fiction.
My own body of work, though, consists of writing across all literary genres, and I find the constant shift from poetry to prose, from prose to drama, from drama to children’s books, and back to poetry again challenging and important to my development and growth as a writer. I recognize myself mostly as a poet because poetry is the place I always go back to. And it is such a merciless place: there is nothing worse than a bad poem, and I feel it hardens me up as a writer to work with the language in the most extremely nerdy way. In fact I feel that through poetry it becomes possible to express even the most unspeakable things. Here is a list of novels, like my own book Rock, Paper, Scissors, that bring a poetic sensitivity to language into the history of the novel. Included here are a couple of Danish poets that American readers might not know – please enjoy them, they are great!