One time, I took a BuzzFeed quiz that told me to build a bedroom and they’ll tell me what to do with my life. My result? “Write the next great American Novel”. As a poet, I laughed. But also, as a poet, sometimes I have the urge to write so much more than just poems. I’ll have dreams and wake up thinking, “I could write a book about that,” so, I write it down and tell myself I’ll come back to it soon. (It never happens). (Maybe one day).
That led me to wonder, how many famous novelists also wrote poetry? How many could do both? Well. Not many, but there are some!
1. J.R.R. Tolkien
Famous for writing the incredible work, The Lord of the Rings, J. J. R. Tolkien made his mark on the world with The Hobbit written in 1937. What most do not know is that he published a book of poetry in 1962 titled The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (and Other Verses from the Red Book). Tolkien infused his magical world of Middle-earth with The Adventure of Tom Bombadil by incorporating two of the sixteen poems from the point of view of Tom Bombadil, a character from The Fellowship of the Rings. The contents are full of fairy-tale rhymes and stories of magical beasts. So, if you enjoyed his fantastical book series, there’s no doubt you’ll love his poetry, too.
2. Margaret Atwood
Her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, has recently become hugely popular over the last year, but it’s been around since 1985. Feminist themes found in her works like The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin can also be found in her 1995 book of poetry, Morning in the Burned House. Themes of the torture of women, isolation, and Greek Mythology are all encased in this incredible work of literature. Don’t believe me? Check out the poem “Morning in the Burned House” to see a speaker questioning their awareness of their body and their own isolation. Atwood never disappoints through any of her works of literature.
3. Emily Brontë
Immortalized in the pages of her Gothic Romance novel, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë probably took up a chunk of your time with the themes of love, social class, and the supernatural in your high school English class. A little background on Emily Brontë; her and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, were also writers, but published under male names due to the time period. Together, they published a small book of poetry together, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell in 1846. Ellis being Emily. It was only until after her death that around 200 poems were found and put together in 1941 in The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë by C. W. Hatfield. My personal favorite of her poems is “Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun”. Much like Wuthering Heights it holds allusions to the supernatural, love and loss, and simply beautiful description and nature details.
4. Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita. That’s all I have to say about this man. If you’ve read it, you know the impact of that name. If you haven’t, read it. While you’re at it, read his poetry! Few people know Nabokov actually started writing as a poet and later branched out the fiction. His poem, “Lilith” written in 1928 actually inspired the story for Lolita. Like the novel, it’s disturbing and definitely controversial – read at your own risk. Controversial or not, there’s no denying the power Nabokov has in his work. He truly has a way with words, so much so that people still refer to Lolita as a love story to this day. I’ll leave that up to you to ponder.