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This report is taken from PN Review 195, Volume 37 Number 1, September - October 2010.

You You, You You Mark Dow

Saer, Coleridge, Schiller, Homer
One Sunday morning in 1798, Coleridge set sail from Yarmouth to Hamburg, and ‘for the first time in my life’, he wrote in a letter he would include in his Biographia Literaria, ‘beheld my native land retiring from me’. After a hilarious account of the broken English rantings of a Danish passenger drunk on a mix of warm water, brandy, sugar, and nutmeg – ‘He talked English with such fluency, as left me wholly unable to account for the singular and even ludicrous incorrectness with which he spoke it’ – Coleridge turns abruptly to ‘a single solitary wild duck’ he notices on the sea: ‘It is not easy to conceive, how interesting a thing it looked in that round objectless desert of waters. I had associated such a feeling of immensity with the ocean, that I felt exceedingly disappointed, when I was out of sight of all land, at the narrowness and nearness, as it were, of the circle of the horizon. So little are images capable of satisfying the obscure feelings connected with words.’

Here’s a one-sentence poem printed without (poetic) line breaks in Juan José Saer’s volume of poems, El arte de narrar:

The Homeric Hexameter Described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Like iron it steadies us on the undulation of its endless waves without there being anything either before it or behind it that is not the ocean and the sky.

Saer was ...

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