Monday, March 1, 2010

The Beauty of the Husband - For Something Entirely Different

This weekend our community of poetry readers: COP'Rs  came together and discussed Anne Carson. I was the dissenting voice arguing that her work was that of a philosopher more than a poet and that the consciousness was too cold to be of much interest. Yes, the woman is well versed in several languages, but that doesn't make her a good poet. And is she a poet or a composer or now a "conceptual artist"? And yet, and yet ... There are two things that I loved about her work --- Anne Carson gives me permission to think outside the poetry box. Perhaps she is a poet because poetry is the most elastic of the arts, the most open to innovation. Aim high, think big, risk failure -- "Fail again, fail better" as Beckett would say. In any case, this lead me to read The Beauty of the Husband last night. A book that has converted me to an Anne Carson fan. For me, "The Glass Essay" is far less interesting. So the poet compares herself to Emily Bronte -- so?

I wrote my wonderful group of poetry lovers last night at 1:00 AM to say mea culpa. Carson may not be my cup of tea in the way that I admire Mark Doty who I will read and re-read with awe and pleasure, but she allows me to push into new realms and ideas and there's a lot to be said for that. Carson's about to come out with a new book that looks like it may cast poetry as scrap book, as collage, as elegy/fragmentation. Meanwhile, I think it's time to re-read some Keats. What are others views of Anne Carson?


  1. I have loved this book for years, precisely because it breaks the mold of traditional and blends poetry and philosophy with aching reflection. I have dipped into a few other Carson books but none hold me as this one does.

    So glad you found it moving, too.

  2. Hi Drew,

    That seems to be the general consensus -- The Beauty of the Husband is what AC will be remembered for is my guess.

  3. I, too, have wondered why Carson, a classicist-turned-poet, is all the rage, particularly (it seems) with younger poets (she's now Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at NYU, my creative writing alma mater). But despite her scholarly detachment, I do admire her risk taking. I'll have to give her work another look... I've found that I can learn just as much from work that doesn't necessarily resonate with me as I do from the work of my favorite poets.

  4. Hi Mari,

    I agree. I don't need to love a poet to learn from him or her. Sometimes I am surprised by my reactions to different poets. Carson is a case in point. She seems a tad too much into the performance of the poem. I suspect that she will be moving on from poetry into performance art and other genres. It will be interesting to see where she lands.