Biography of Anne Carson
Anne Carson (born June 21, 1950) is a Canadian poet, essayist, translator and professor of Classics. Carson lived in Montreal for several years and taught at McGill University, the University of Michigan, and at Princeton University from 1980-1987. She was a 1998 Guggenheim Fellow. and in 2000 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She has also won a Lannan Literary Award.
In high school, a Latin instructor introduced Carson to the world and language of Ancient Greece and tutored her privately. Enrolling at St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto, she left twice—at the end of her first and second years. Carson, disconcerted by curricular constraints (particularly by a required course on Milton), retired to the world of graphic arts for a short time. She did eventually return to the University of Toronto where she completed her B.A. in 1974, her M.A. in 1975 and her Ph.D. in 1981. She also spent a year studying Greek metrics and Greek textual criticism at the University of St Andrews.
A professor of the classics, with background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art, Carson blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. She frequently references, modernizes, and translates Ancient Greek literature. She has published eighteen books as of 2013, all of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translation, dramatic dialogue, fiction, and non-fiction.
Carson was an Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, for Fall 2007. The Classic Stage Company, a New York–based theatre company, produced three of Carson's translations: Aeschylus' Agamemnon; Sophocles' Electra; and Euripides' Orestes (as An Oresteia), in repertory, in the 2008/2009 season. She is Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at New York University. and was a judge for the 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize.
She also participated in the Bush Theatre's project Sixty Six Books (October 2011), for which she had written a piece entitled Jude: The Goat at Midnight based upon the Epistle of Jude from the King James Bible. Once every year, Carson and her husband, Robert Currie, teach a class called Egocircus about the art of collaboration at New York University. On November 16, 2012, Carson received an honorary degree from the University of Toronto. Carson delivered a series of "short talks", or short-format poems on various subjects, as the address to the Ph.D. graduating class of 2012.
Anne Carson's 2013 book Red Doc> was reviewed by Kathryn Schulz as, "a sequel of sorts to Autobiography of Red, which was a sequel of sorts to a poem by Stesichoros... In Greek myth, a monster named Geryon lived on a red island and tended a herd of coveted red cattle; slaying the monster and stealing the cattle was the tenth of the twelve labors of Herakles... The tale was set down by Hesiod and others almost 3,000 years ago... What Red Doc> is greater than is the sum of its parts. This is Carson's obsession, and her gift: to make meaning from the fragments we get, which are also all we get -- of time, of the past, of each other. It doesn't last, of course; the arrow of gravity, like the arrow of time, points only in one direction. Still, for a moment, she gets it all to hang together up there, the joy made keener by the coming fall. Sad but great: In the end it seemed to me that Carson had found the proper name for everything -- her character, this book, this life."
- Short Talk on Homo Sapiens
- Short Talk on The Rules of Perspective
- Short Talk on Trout
- Short Talk on Vicuñas
- Short Talk on Major and Minor
- Short Talk on Geisha
- Short Talk On Chromo-luminarism
- TANGO XIX. AND KNEELING AT THE EDGE OF T...
- TANGO XIV. RUNNING YOUR HAND OVER IT TO ...
- TANGO XII HERE'S OUR CLEAN BUSINESS NOW ...
- TANGO VII. BUT TO HONOR TRUTH WHICH IS S...
- TANGO XXII. HOMO LUDENS
- Thunderstorm Stack
- from Pinplay
Anne Carson Poems
TANGO XIV. RUNNING YOUR HAND OVER IT TO ...
Today I have not won. But who can tell it I shall win tomorrow. So he would say to himself going down the stairs. Then he won. Good thing because in the smoke of the room he had found himself wagering his grandfather's farm (which he did not own) and forty thousand dollars cash (which he did). Oh to tell her at once he went slapping down the sidewalk to the nearest phone booth, 5 AM rain pelting his neck. Hello. Her voice sounded broken into. Where were you last night. Dread slits his breath. Oh no he can hear her choosing another arrow now from the little quiver and anger goes straight up like trees in her voice holding his heart tall. I only feel clean he says suddenly when I wake up with you. The seduction of force is from below. With one finger the king of hell is writing her initials on the glass like scalded things. So in travail a husband's legend glows, sings.
TANGO XII HERE'S OUR CLEAN BUSINESS NOW ...
You want to see how things were going from the husband's point of view - let's go round the back, there stands the wife gripping herself at the elbows and facing the husband. Not tears he is saying, not tears again. But still they fall. She is watching him. I'm sorry he says. Do you believe me. Watching. I never wanted to harm you. Watching. This is banal. It's like Oscar Wilde. Say something! I believe your taxi is here she said. He looked down at the street. She was right. It stung him, the pathos of her keen hearing. There she stood a person with particular traits, a certain heart, life beating on its way in her. He signals to the driver, five minutes. Now her tears have stopped. What will she do after I go? he wonders. Her evening. It closed his breath. Her strange evening. Well he said. Do you know she began. What. If I could kill you I would then have to make another exactly like you. Why. To tell it to. Perfection rested on them for a moment like calm on a lake. Pain rested. Beauty does not rest. The husband touched his wife's temple and turned and ran down the stairs.
TANGO VII. BUT TO HONOR TRUTH WHICH IS S...
All myth is an enriched pattern, a two-faced proposition, allowing its operator to say one thing and mean another, to lead a double life. Hence the notion found early in ancient thought that all poets are liars. And from the true lies of poetry trickled out a question. What really connects words and things? Not much, decided my husband and proceeded to use language in the way that Homer says the gods do. All human words are known to the gods but have for them entirely other meanings alongside our meanings. Gods flip the switch at will. My husband lied about everything. Money, meetings, mistresses, the birthplace of his parents, the store where he bought shirts, the spelling of his own name. He lied when it was not necessary to lie. He lied when it wasn't even convenient. He lied when he knew they knew he was lying. He lied when it broke their hearts. My heart. Her heart. I often wonder what happened to her. The first one.
TANGO XXII. HOMO LUDENS
Omens are for example hearing someone say victory as they pass you in the street or to be staring at the little sulfur lamps in the grass all around the edge of the hotel garden just as they come on. They come on at dusk. What was he thinking to bring her here? Hotel Eremia. He knew very well. Détente and reconciliation, let's start again, thinking oysters and glacé fruits, it needs a light touch, narrow keys not very deep. Hotel gardens at dusk are a place where the laws governing matter get pulled inside out, like the black keys and the white keys on Mozart's piano. It cheered him to remember Mozart borrowing money every night and smiling his tilted smile. Necessity is not real! after all. The husband swallows his ouzo and waits for its slow hot snow inside him. Mozart (so his wife told him at lunch) scored his Horn Concerto in four different colors of ink: a man at play. A husband whose wife knows just enough history to keep him going. Cheer is rampant in the husband now. Infinite evening ahead. Its shoals appear to him and he navigates them one by one slipping the dark blue keel ropes this way and that on a bosom of inconceivable silver - ah here she is. The husband can be seen to rise as his wife crosses the garden. Why so sad. No I'm not sad. Why in your eyes - What are you drinking. Ouzo. Can you get me a tea. Of course. He goes out. She waits. Waiting, thoughts come, go. Flow. This flowing. Why sadness? This flowing the world to its end. Why in your eyes - It is a line of verse. Where has it stepped from. She searches herself, waiting. Waiting is searching. And the odd thing is, waiting, searching, the wife suddenly knows a fact about her husband. This fact for which she had not searched jerks itself into the light like a child from a closet. She knows why he is taking so long at the bar. Over and over in later years when she told this story she marvelled at her husband's ability to place the world within brackets. A brackets-worth of mirage! all he ever needed. A man who after three years of separation would take his wife to Athens - for adoration, for peace, then telephone New York every night from the bar and speak to a woman who thought he was over on 4th Street working late. And upstairs that night, which proved a long night, as he was dragging his wounded honour about the hotel room like a damaged queen of moths because she mentioned Houyhnms and he objected to being ‘written off as an object of satire,' they moved several times through a cycle of remarks like - What is this, what future is there I thought You said We never When exactly day year name anything who I was who I am who did you Did you or did you not Do you or do you not This excuse that excuse pleasure pain truth What truth is that All those kilometers Faith Letters You're right Never oh all right once - which, like the chain of Parmenides' well-rounded Truth you can follow a circle and always end up where you began, for ‘it is all one to me where I start - I arrive there again soon enough' as Parmenides says. So the wife was thinking (about Parmenides) with part of her mind while throwing Ever Never Liar at her husband and he was holding Yes and No together with one hand while parrying the words of his wife when - they stopped. Silence came. They stood aligned, he at the door with his back to it she at the bed with her back to it, in that posture which experts of conflict resolution tell us insures impasse, and they looked at one another and there was nothing more to say. Kissing her, I love you, joys and leaves of earlier times flowed through the husband and disappeared. Presence and absence twisted out of sight of one another inside the wife They stood. Sounds reach them, a truck, a snore, poor shrubs ticking on a tin wall. His nose begins to bleed. Then blood runs down over his upper lip, lower lip, chin. To his throat. Appears on the whiteness of his shirt. Dyes a mother-of-pearl button for good. Blacker than a mulberry. Don't think his heart had burst. He was no Tristan (though he would love to point out that in the common version Tristan is not false, it is the sail that kills) yet neither of them had a handkerchief and that is how she ends up staining her robe with his blood, his head in her lap and his virtue coursing through her as if they were one flesh. Husband and wife may erase a boundary. Creating a white page. But now the blood seems to be the only thing in the room. If only one's whole life could consist in certain moments. There is no possibility of coming back from such a moment to simple hatred, black ink. If a husband throws the dice of his beauty one last time, who is to blame? Rich proposition, drastic economy, hours, beds, pronouns, no one. No one is to blame. Change the question. We are mortal, balanced on a day, now and then it makes sense to say Save what you can. Wasn't it you who told me civilization is impossible in the absence of a spirit of play. Anyway what would you have done - torn the phone off the wall? smothered him with a pillow? emptied his wallet and run? But you overlook an important cultural function of games. To test the will of the gods. Huizinga reminds us that war itself is a form of divination. Husband and wife did not therefore engage in murder but continued their tour of the Peloponnese, spending eight more wary days in temples and buses and vine-covered tavernas, eight days which had the internal texture of petradavki (ancient pevtros) - that is ‘broken crushed stone, roadstone, gravel' - but which served a purpose within the mode of justice that was their marriage. Waiting for the future and for the gods, husband and wife rested, as players may rest against the rules of the game, if it is a game, if they know the rules, and it was and they did.
A bird flashed by as if mistaken then it starts. We do not think speed of life. We do not think why hate Jezebel? We think who's that throwing trees against the house? Jezebel was a Phoenician. Phoenician thunderstorms are dry and frightening, they arrive one inside the other as torqued ellipses.
Chorus: Choral interlude followed by Act IV. How many pins can dance on the head of a god? How many kings can you pin to the dance in my head? How many dances left stains on the woman he was? How many stains kept him quiet, O Agave! [enter Agave exultant and covered in blood, carrying the head of Pentheus impaled on a lacuna] Agave: O! Chorus: Speak, Agave. Agave: I've come with the pins. Chorus: We welcome the pins. Agave: I stained them as prizes. Chorus: We prize them as kings. Agave: How many kings— Chorus: did you rip the cheeks off? Agave: How many cheeks— Chorus: did you pin to the delicate mouth of the mother? Agave: How many mouths did she need— Chorus: to finish the meat? Agave: Not so many. Chorus: A happy number? Agave: A clever number. Chorus: A realistic number? Agave: A frolic of a number. [Agave raises lacuna high in one hand then lowers it gradually as her mood changes] But then again, actually, not much of a number. Chorus: If you think about it? Agave: A dismal little number. Chorus: If you study it closely? Agave: Just a sob of a number. Chorus: O Agave! Agave: What? Chorus: Your sob has a name. Agave: How many names can I pry from the head of a pun? Chorus: Just one. Agave: O my son! [Agave tosses lacuna to audience with Pentheus' head attached]
Town on the Way through God's Woods
Tell me. Have you ever seen woods so. Deep so. Every tree a word does your heart stop? Once I saw a cloud over Bolivia so deep.
Hanging on the daylight black. As an overcoat with no man in it one cold bright. Noon the Demander was waiting for me.
Town of Spring Once Again
'Spring is always like what it used to be.' Said an old Chinese man. Rain hissed down the windows.
Town of the Sound of a Twig Breaking
Their faces I thought were knives. The way they pointed them at me. And waited.
She ran in. Wet corn. Yellow braid. Down her back.
After your death. It was windy every day. Every day. Opposed us like a wall.
A bird flashed by as if mistaken then it starts. We do not think speed of life. We do not think why hate Jezebel? We
Book of Isaiah, Part I
Isaiah awoke angry. Lapping at Isaiah's ears black birdsong no it was anger. God had filled Isaiah's ears with stingers.
Choral interlude followed by Act IV.
How many pins can dance on the head of a god?
How many kings can you pin to the dance in my head?
How many dances left stains on the woman he was?
How many stains kept him quiet, O Agave!
[enter Agave exultant and covered in blood, carrying the head of Pentheus impaled on a lacuna]