Anne Carson

Anne Carson is living in Iceland, a remaining civilisation.

Poem: ‘Oh What A Night (Alkibiades)’

Anne Carson, 19 November 2020

Plato’s Symposium prelude.A symposium was usually a gentleman’s drinking party. This is an unusual one. It has been going on for hours with no drinking. The participants agreed at the outset to forego wine in favour of entertaining one another with speeches in praise of love. Phaidros, Pausanias, Eryximachos, Aristophanes and Agathon have spoken; Sokrates is just subsiding to...

Poem: ‘Lark’

Anne Carson, 21 May 2020

Freezing daffodils nod againstApril snow. Long queue at thefood store. Brilliant deaths cutthe day. Hal was only 64. Hehad sung kaddish for someoneelse not long ago and no oneexpected – even the lark doesnot see the Open, someonesaid in another time.


Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson, 5 March 2020

Once, once somehow I lost both of them, a man was saying as he came out of the elevator that morning. He was alone. He flicked his eyes on me, off me. He had a furtive tinge and a swank black overcoat – I thought at once of Joseph Conrad, as he is in formal photographs, with the not-quite-Western eyes and virtuosic goatee.

Once I attended a christening at a farmhouse in a country far...

Poem: ‘On Davey’

Anne Carson, 3 January 2019

Gods do not fall, falling is human. Fall at the start, from between the knees of your mother to the ground. Fall again at the end. Gods, no. Even when new they didn’t lose their balance. They never will now. Even in battle they glare and fuss and stumble, receive light wounds, but don’t hit the ground. Have very little to do with the ground. Traverse it faster than thought. Feet...

Although gamma is the third letter of the ancient Greek alphabet, the fourth book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics is called Metaphysics Gamma because there are two extant Metaphysics Alphas and (may we suppose) no one could bear to call one of them lesser, so references to the fourth book are given as Metaphysics Gamma (IV) or sometimes Metaphysics IV (3), this being the book where Aristotle...

Poem: ‘Fate, Federal Court, Moon’

Anne Carson, 16 March 2017

The fate of the earth. The fate of me. The fate of you. The fate of Faisal. The fate of the court where Faisal will plead his case. The fate of the court’s bias. Every court has a bias. It sifts to the surface gradually. The fate of whomever we drink to after court. The fate of that branch of mathematics that deals with ‘dead-end depth’. The fate of Yemen where Faisal will...

Poem: ‘Tom and TV’

Anne Carson, 1 December 2016

Out of the folds of the heavenly things I was dreaming of Tom Stoppard in a car saying do you want to come look at my etchings and I thought here at last is someone who will know how this drear phrase came to refer to close acts of humankind so I said what does that really mean do you think and he said sex and I awoke in tears because I suddenly remembered when my Dad died I had to pawn his...

… until my middle name is excess …              P.J. Harvey


That should be enough. Start here.

We go to Dave’s cottage. To go is happy.

Big waves on the lake and thunderstorms predicted.

I will sit on the porch and try to think.

Prepare for thinking (in the car as we go)

by reading a book...

Poem: ‘The Albertine Workout’

Anne Carson, 5 June 2014

1. Albertine, the name, is not a common name for a girl in France, although Albert is widespread for a boy.

2. Albertine’s name occurs 2363 times in Proust’s novel, more than any other character.

3. Albertine herself is present or mentioned on 807 pages of Proust’s novel.

4. On a good 19 per cent of these pages she is asleep.

5. Albertine is believed by some critics, including...

for Wally and Deborah and Larry and André

Go to the Wally Shawn play, it is hopeless, I mean production impeccable, philosophy hopeless. Yet it gives me hope! Figure this out. Next day listening to Sam Cooke what comes to me in a dawn café is:no need to fear death. There will be a tunnel and light. Order a tofu burrito. C. comes in looking lively. He got to the car just as the...

9.4. They put stones in their eye sockets. Upper-class people put precious stones. 16.2. Prior to the movement and following the movement, stillness. 8.0. Not sleeping made the Cycladic people gradually more and more brittle. Their legs broke off. 1.0. The Cycladic was a neolithic culture based on emmer wheat, wild barley, sheep, pigs and tuna speared from small boats. 11.4. Left hand on...

A Fragment of Ibykos Translated Six Ways

Anne Carson, 8 November 2012

[Ibykos fr. 286, Poetae Melici Graeci]

In spring, on the one hand, the Kydonian apple trees, being watered by streams of rivers where the uncut garden of the maidens [is] and vine blossoms swelling beneath shady vine branches bloom. On the other hand, for me Eros lies quiet at no season. Nay rather, like a Thracian north wind ablaze with lightning, rushing from Aphrodite accompanied by...

Shame Stack

Shame requires the eyes of others unlike guilt. Eyes of Elijah the Tishbite saw in Jezebel a person with much to be ashamed of. There is a link between shame and mercy people who lack the one lack the other. Psychoanalysts say shame ruins your capacity for reverie by making cracks in the mind where it is dangerous for thought to wander. In the end Jezebel’s own eunuchs throw...

Poem: ‘Glove’

Anne Carson, 22 September 2011

What did he want from me. I visit old Europe. I fail at purity.

I do not find Marietta. I didn’t really look for Marietta. I wouldn’t know how to recognise the woman.

Atrocity tourism offers the poet many an opportunity to get pure.

Before leaving for Krakow I got a call to visit Lezek.

Now you have seen her perhaps you will be inspired. Turning to the camera.

A tree with split...

Two Sonnets

Anne Carson, 3 February 2011

Merce Sonnet

Narrative some dance is.    Other not.    Two opposite places to start  Telling stories:    Graham, Martha.    Take a name. Play a part....

Poem: ‘Sonnet Isolate’

Anne Carson, 4 November 2010

‘I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.’

Marcel Duchamp

A sonnet is a rectangle upon the page. Your eye enjoys it in a ratio of eight to five. Let’s say you’re an urgent man in an urgent language construing the millions of shadows that keep you alive. If only it were water or innocent or a hawk from a handsaw, if only you...

Two Sonnets

Anne Carson, 7 October 2010

Sonnet of Addressing Gertrude Stein

Here is a pronoun to address Gertrude Stein with : dog you’ve never had before has died.

Drop’t Sonnet

When a language drops a distinction (as e.g. English has modified the 2nd person singular so that I can no longer express the wish,Tell me spirit! whither wander’st thou? or split a king in two saying, If thou beest not immortal, look...

Poem: ‘Good Dog’

Anne Carson, 25 February 2010

I was waiting for you to get to work ‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island’ Frank O’Hara

1 You know the second person in the history of the world the Sun chose to speak to personally was Frank O’Hara, the first was Orpheus [me]. You are my Sweetheart said the Sun. He was sitting on the hood of his truck. Somehow it was menacing. I hardly knew what to...

Poem: ‘Wildly Constant’

Anne Carson, 30 April 2009

Sky before dawn is blackish green. Perhaps a sign. I should learn more about signs.

Turning a corner to the harbour the wind hits me a punch in the face.

I always walk in the morning, I don’t know why anymore. Life is short.

My shadow goes before me. With its hood up it looks like a foghorn.

Ice on the road. Ice on the sidewalk. Nowhere to step.

It’s better to step where the...

Poem: ‘Burners Go Raw’

Anne Carson, 26 February 2009

Burners medieval dark mud on a road a dark morning, falling back through memories a faint pain, dark uphill way the usual alone and gravel picking my step out where nothing, out hoping, hope sinking, slope rising, that dark colour, almost rain, a thing impending, how to get home the perfect lamplight from which out where nothing though I can almost taste it oh yes today, if today is your...

Cast: Prometheus, god of Foresight Govt (formerly Zeus), mute part Flare and Stench, two henchman of Govt Ocean, god of oceans Io, woman turned into a cow by jealous wife of Govt Hermes, messenger of Govt Chorus, 50 daughters of Ocean

PROMETHEUS: How it begins. A rock wall. Enter Flare and Stench sent by Govt to writhe me (Flare does the work). Sounds of sawing, hammering, harvesting,...

SCENE: Sunday. England. Country road. CAST: deer Jimi Hendrix limo driver [Enter deer from woods on right. Stops, stands still on road] DEER: Heart is wild muscle Hum [Limo with JH in back approaches on road. JH on cell phone] JH: So. Dad. I’m in England. LD: Look we got a deer. JH: What? LD: There. JH: Just standing. LD: They do that. DEER: Thin to the leap goes exactly what tired you...


Do you think of your saliva as a personal possession or as something you can sell? What about tears? What about semen? Linguists tell us to use the terms alienable and inalienable to make this distinction intelligible. E.g. English speakers call both blood and faeces alienable on a normal day but saliva, sweat, tears and bowels they do not give away. Bananas and buttocks, in Papua New...

Poem: ‘Alive That Time’

Anne Carson, 8 February 2007

In fact Odysseus would have been here long before now but it seemed to his mind more profitable to go to many lands acquiring stuff. For Odysseus knows profit over and above mortal men nor could anyone else alive rival him at this.

(Odyssey, 19.282-6)

It’s a panel on something improbable (Godard and Homer?) in a fluorescent salon of some city’s Palais des Congrès. After your...

for RC

1. Huron River

We walked by the river its arms all gold in winter sun like tin. Workshops of afternoon hummed along elsewhere. We noted ice at the shore and ice on plants and ice from the light fixtures under the railway bridge exploding –Squid, you said. Time toppled past us. There were no trains, no sunset. Geese lapped at an edge, eyes inward on their sunk city.

2. The Pool in...

Two Poems

Emile Nelligan, translated by Anne Carson, 11 May 2006

Funeral Marches

I hear in me the funeral voices call out transcendentally, when in German style the bands go beating by.

At a mad shiver of my vertebrae if I sob like a lost man, it’s that I hear the funeral voices call out transcendentally.

As a ghostly gallop of zebras my dream goes strangely prowling and I am so haunted that in me always, inside my darknesses

I hear the funeral...

Poem: ‘Zeus Bits’

Anne Carson, 17 November 2005

[ZEUS PAUSES AMID WRITING HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY] How everyone thinks him a happy-go-lucky guy. True and not true, don’t give the ending away. Rhyme angst with spanks? Bit of a buzz on the old loins yet.

[ZEUS DECIDES TO DO HIS OWN TAXES THIS YEAR] Deduct the corpse of Helen from the corpse of war (net). ‘Victory’ (adjusted gross). ‘Virtue’ (attach schedule E).Under...


CASSANDRA: My lips rush the night, skull empty- ing, wide, cold, yolks gone, was it for this?

is like the moment when is like the when is like the

CHORUS: you amaze me


CHORUS: lust?


CHORUS: come on

CASSANDRA: we wrestled!

CHORUS: conceived?

CASSANDRA: spat him out!

CHORUS: but still he?

CASSANDRA: ah my gift!

CHORUS: bad?

CASSANDRA: (never) believed!


‘… metals talking among themselves, metals that first meet above the earth …’Adam Zagajewski, Another Beauty

I thought about it walking home.

One of those relentlessly clear midwest midnights frozen all the way up to a halfmoon loose in her steam in blueblack vastness. Silent silent. A gnostic night.No blackbirds.Share a birthday! –

were we

negatives lying side by...

Two Poems

Anne Carson, 4 December 2003

Beckett’s Theory of Tragedy

Hegel on sacrifice. The animal dies. The man becomes alert. What do we learn we learn to notice everything now. We learn to say he is a hero let him do it. O is shown moving to the window. What a rustling what an evening. Oh little actor

(living moving mourning lamenting and howling incessantly) time to fly back to where they keep your skin. Frail was it....

It was hidden in her and it gave Kant pleasure. L’Eclisse begins with a wind blowing Monica Vitti’s hair. She is inside a room.

Kant’s was a partly negative pleasure.Where is that wind from?

Kant took pleasure in what he called Thing In Itself.She is prowling the room with her eyes down, observed deeply by a man in an armchair.

Thing In Itself was unattainable,...

Story: ‘Euripides to the Audience*’

Anne Carson, 5 September 2002

I don’t understand your faces, I don’t understand them. At night I stand at the back of the theatre. I watch you suck in sex, death, devastation, hour after hour in a weird kind of unresisting infant heat, then for no reason you cool, flicker out. I guess for no reason is an arrogant thing to say. For no reason I can name is what I mean. It was a few years ago now I gave you a...

Two Poems

Anne Carson, 8 August 2002

Swimming in Circles in Copenhagen A Sonnet Sequence

The palace guards, the palace guards telephoned to ask for shards. I sent out the hard dogs.

Dark swallow.

It is no simple red, he said. Each thread spun from a different reason for marrying.

Dark swallow.

This sparkle of anyone, all too soon. All too, all too soon flaming.

Dark swallow.

Claiming to have no word for...

I want everything. Everything is a naked thought that strikes.

A foghorn sounding through fog makes the fog seem to be everything. Quail eggs eaten from the hand in fog make everything aphrodisiac.

My husband shrugs when I say so, my husband shrugs at everything. The lakes where his factory has poisoned everything are as beautiful as Brueghel.

I keep my shop, in order that I may sell...

Poem: ‘Guillermo’s Sigh Symphony’

Anne Carson, 7 February 2002

Do you hear sighing.      Do you wake amid a sigh.            Radio sighs AM,              FM.                Shortwave sighs crackle in from the Atlantic....

IX. But what word was it

Word that overnight showed up on all the walls of my life inscribed simpliciter no explanation. What is the power of the unexplained. There he was one day (new town) in a hayfield outside my school standing under a black umbrella in a raw picking wind. I never asked how he got there a distance of maybe three hundred miles. To ask

would break some rule. Have you ever...


Criminal Justice

24 June 1993

Ronan Bennett is to be congratulated for a thoroughly impressive piece of journalism, scholarship and self-control (LRB, 24 June). It is not rare nowadays to be moved to shock and anger by a story of inequities in our so-called justice system; what is rare is to be moved beyond shock and anger – to hope – by the scrupulosity with which such a story is told.

Professor or Pinhead: Anne Carson

Stephanie Burt, 14 July 2011

Some writers discover their powers gradually. Others – Anne Carson, for example – spring from the head of Zeus. With three books in four years during the mid-1990s, the Canadian poet,...

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Some time ago the scholar Jean-Pierre Vernant reminded us that Greek gods are not persons but forces; and in Anne Carson’s Oresteia, her sharp, sceptical, often laconic version of three...

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Tongue breaks: Sappho

Emily Wilson, 8 January 2004

Some time around the ninth century, Sappho’s nine books were irrecoverably lost. We have some tantalising scraps, single lines and short quotations, but only one complete poem – the...

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I am going to end up talking about love, but let me start by talking about money. Money, as Marx tells us, is the enemy of mankind and social bonds. ‘If you suppose man to be man and his...

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