111 Most Important Works of Metafiction

What is fiction and why does it matter? Metafiction addresses these questions. Metafiction is fiction about fiction, or fiction that is somehow self-reflective. This is a list of the most important metafictional texts and works that contain metafictional elements, including some metapoems and metaplays, with explanations of what makes them metafiction. For those who want to read more about certain selections, I have included links to relevant posts on my blog and outside sources. This list is not meant to be comprehensive but to give readers an idea of the range and richness of metafiction. Delicious! Enjoy!

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This . . . is How to Read . . . a Pöem

Young male reading aloud from book at the beach
This is how . . . to read a pöem
with plenty of pregnant . . . pauses about to break . . .
water. Make them feel . . . your labor pains.
Let them know you suffer . . . to give birth . . .
to art . . . fart . . . Blow the world apart!

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say something say something
cram my mouth with crumpled words
stuff my chest cavity with paper
anything to fill me up give me shape
ever since I pulled the gods
from my belly my hide’s begun to sag

say something say something
any answer as long as it is broad
enough to fill the gap between stars
strong enough to bridge the space
between a nucleus and electron
an open question is the mouth of death
any answer to stop the asking

A Poem Dangerously about Itself


Isn’t “word” a weird word,
something blind and burrowing?
Where’s it going? Why so blunt?
What’s it looking for? Itself?

These shapes, these sounds, how
do they mean what I mean
them to mean? I mean
this group of words does

not make meaning nor a poem, yet
if I could turn these lines
against themselves, this line would be
invalidated and oh so very. What?
Full of itself, full of its emptiness?
Either way, it’s not a good beginning
for a poem, a poem meant, as I am,
to express itself. The poem totters on a single

that seems to mean and misses itself,
as I miss you, meaning, I miss myself,
meaning, I miss the point of wanting to express
myself, beginning and ending, as I do, upon a


A Simple Metapoem for an Oxymoron: You

Paradoxes and Oxymorons

by John Ashbery

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem.
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

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