Anne Carson has been acclaimed by her peers as the most imaginative poet writing today. In a recent profile, The New York Times Magazine paid tribute to her amazing ability to combine the classical and the modern, the mundane and the surreal, in a body of work that is sure to endure. In Men in the Off Hours, Carson offers further proof of her tantalizing gifts. Reinventing figures as diverse as Oedipus, Emily Dickinson, and Audubon, Carson sets up startling juxtapositions: Lazarus among video paraphernalia, Virginia Woolf and Thucydides discussing war, Edward Hopper paintings illuminated by St. Augustine. And in a final prose poem, she meditates movingly on the recent death of her mother. With its quiet, acute spirituality and its fearless wit and sensuality, Men in the Off Hours shows us a fiercely individual poet at her best.
What can I say? I did much more than enjoy it. I savoured it. Her spartan imagery, her hard-ass, no-nonsense view of the world appeals greatly to me. I would love to do with words what she can do. I would also like to one day own such a sharp and biting wit, but I suspect I would have to be a different person for that. She also seems to have the same preoccupation with Anna Akhmatova that I do (I suspect she read the same wonderful biography of the poet) and wrote about Tolstoy when I am writing about Tolstoy (for fun and kicks and without knowing a damn thing about the man that is how presumptuous I am). Also, the essay at the end about the way the Greeks viewed women was especially fascinating. When I get home I will persue the volume and give a little sample of her poems here, so you don't have to rely on this inadequate account.
(I am home now and just opened the book. This is what I found...)
Caeli Lesbia Nostra Lesbia Illa (Our Lesbia that Lesbia)
Catullus finds his own love gone to others
Nuns coated in silver were not so naked
As our night interviews.
Now what plum is your tongue