I've never written a novel. I don't think I've ever got beyond 6 pages of a "novel"; that's barely even a short story. In the sixth form at school I was the one who wrote poetry (there's always one); everybody always assumed I'd Write My Novel eventually. After I left school, a couple of people even asked me "have you written your novel yet?" Unfortunately, most of them chose to ask that during the years when I thought I'd spend the rest of my life marking up photocopies with SGML in red pen; I'd stopped writing poetry, basically stopped writing anything except LiveJournal. Not a good time to ask.
I'm not sure why people should think that writing poetry should naturally lead to writing a novel; it's like asking Linford Christie why he hasn't got as far as running a marathon yet. (Okay, he probably has/does/did/will just to spite me now.) I guess people assume that it's all to do with endurance (and like most lies, there's probably truth in it: some of it is doubtless about "applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair"). The idea, I suppose, would be that you start with a couple of haiku every morning before work, you build up to limericks, sonnets, villanelles; eventually you're ready to start tackling blank verse and epic poetry, and only when you've mastered that can you really start pushing the envelope and writing all the way to the end of each line. I've found it's more like the other way round; you start by writing "stories" where stuff happens to other people or to oneself in the relentless way that stuff has of happening in life: "one damned thing after another," she said and he said and then they, yes, and after a while it all seems so repetitive that you start distilling, cramming more meaning into words, into the spaces between words, bursting at the caesuras, and before you know it, all is logos, singular singularity.
Maybe that's not how it's meant to work.
The poetry never really recovered from the shock of leaving puberty; a brief flare and a long slow fade to black. Eventually it grew up (or what passes for growing up these days) and moved away, drifted around, tried a few different things, never quite settled. I cycled past it -- I'm sure it was the same poem, it had that look, ragged at the line-endings -- the other day and I don't think it even recognised me; I thought I'd look it up again some time but somewhere between the crossroads and the coffee cup, the thought slid away. I don't know what I'd have said to it anyway. Maybe next time.