The Poet is an unusual book. Dispensing with many of the conventions that underpin most extended works of prose fiction, such as significant characterisation, it presents a central protagonist, Manfred, who is ‘honest’ – as the author repeatedly states. Manfred is also a poet.
The novella is written in formal and refined prose, as if the narrative style is designed to reflect Manfred’s obsessional nature and estranged condition: he has never been ‘in love’, is ‘something of a loner’ and is highly anxious. It follows the vicissitudes of his life after he decides to take the only copies of his more than 3,000 poems to a publisher for advice on the possible publication of a poetry collection. Manfred is ‘naïve about such procedures’, as he is about almost everything else, even though his poems range over ‘nature, myth, music and art, history, personality, desire, faith, destiny, death … a universe of concerns that encompassed the gamut of human experience’ – with the exception of love. These poems are supposedly good, perhaps even very good, according to ‘a young teacher of literature named Hugo’. It is no surprise when Manfred’s manuscript goes missing, and thereby hangs this tale.