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kottke.org posts about Philip Hoare

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2020

A group of creative folks recently came together to produce a 40-day-long Big Read of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 18th century epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Readings on sections of the poem from people like Jeremy Irons, Tilda Swinton, Hilary Mantel, and Iggy Pop were paired with artworks from Marina Abramovic, William Kentridge, Cornelia Parker, and Yinka Shonibare. I was struck right off the bat by the first piece, Glenn Brown’s The Shallow End.

Glenn Brown Shallow End

As one of the organizers, writer Philip Hoare, writes in The Guardian, Coleridge’s poem is particularly suited for the present situation, with its subject matter touching on isolation, plague, abolition, and the human impact on the natural world.

Roaring out of the radical 1790s, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a founding fable for our time. A fable must by definition revolve around an animal, and in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s nightmare the slain albatross hangs around the fated sailor’s neck like a broken cross, an emblem of his sin against nature. It is all too relevant today, as a statement of isolation and despair: “Alone, alone, all, all alone, / Alone on a wide, wide sea!” Yet in that forlorn expression is great power; the power of art to change us.

You can watch the entire 41-minute read in this video (embedded above).