There has been a long and often troubled history of poets writing novels and novelists writing poetry. The skills needed are very different and equally hard to learn. Few writers have made equal careers in both. If they do, it’s usually the novels that receive most attention. (Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje spring to mind.) Many major novelists, however, had some poetry among their early work. F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner started penning Keats imitations. Some novelists, like David Foster, have put out a book of poetry, had it negatively reviewed, and have then returned, with some chagrin, to prose. Similarly, some poets’ novels are dismissed for their ‘poetic prose’. There is a strong tendency among poets and novelists (even among their reviewers) to ‘protect their own turf’, as it were.
The ‘turf’ image may also be apposite for the novelist Gerald Murnane, given his lifelong obsession with horseracing. Now, in his eightieth year, Murnane has declared that he has written all the fiction he intends to write and has issued Green Shadows and Other Poems as a kind of valediction.