Jorge Luis Borges on poetry and prose

“It is said that prose is closer to reality than poetry. I think this is wrong. There is an idea that has been attributed to the short story writer Horacio Quiroga: if a cold wind blows from the bank of the river, one must simply write “a cold wind blows from the bank of the river.” Quiroga – if it was he who said this – seems to have forgotten that this construction is as far from reality as it is from the cold wind that blows from the bank of the river. What is our perception of it? We feel the air move, we call it wind, we feel that the wind comes from a certain direction, from the bank of the river. And with this we form something as complex as a poem by Góngora or a sentence by Joyce. Let us return to that phrase, “a cold wind blow from the bank of the river.” We create a subject, wind, a verb blows, and a context, from the bank of the river. All of this is far from reality. Reality is something simpler. The apparently simple and prosaic line, deliberately chosen as such by Quiroga, is a complicated phrase; it is a structure.”

  • Jorge Luis Borges, “Poetry” from Seven Nights, translated Eliot Weinberger

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