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The Rime of the Modern Mariner

by Nick Hayes

reviewed by Kristen Hewitt

Viking, 2012. $32, 336 pages.



Review published in the November/December 2012 issue of Orion magazine



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Nick Hayes’s graphic adventure The Rime of the Modern Mariner brings a contemporary twist to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s classic poem. Set off by an act of mindless killing, this modern mariner’s journey takes us through a dark and haunted sea filled with oil spills, trawling nets, and the great Pacific garbage patch. Compelled to tell his tale to a hostile urbanite on a park bench, the narrator and his wry rhymes reanimate this ecological parable.

Maintaining the meter of the original poem, the text is woven through illustrations that evoke the hallucinatory, underwater dream world of angry sea gods through which the mariner must travel. Only when he understands his role in the ocean’s destruction is he released back into reality, where he must continue to bear witness in a world that would rather look away.