In Coleridge’s Bed
- Deaths of the Poets by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts
Cape, 414 pp, £14.99, February 2017, ISBN 978 0 224 09754 3
Why should poets’ deaths carry more weight than those of others? David Markson’s litany of deaths, This Is Not a Novel, starts off with a poet’s death (Byron’s) and expands to commemorate, in laconic sentences and judicious fragments, the deaths (sprinkled with quotes and quirks) of novelists, painters, composers, philosophers. As it turns out, you’re not really famous until you’ve left a written trace (‘Hitler typed with two fingers’). But as Markson winds to a close, he rounds back to the poets:
When the city I extol shall have
perished, when the men to whom I sing
shall have faded into oblivion, my words
Non omnis moriar. I shall not wholly die.
Per saecula omnia vivam. I shall live
The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.