In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko

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
shall remain.
      Said Pindar.

      Non omnis moriar. I shall not wholly die.
      Said Horace.

      Per saecula omnia vivam. I shall live
      Said Ovid.

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