Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On Discovering Anne Carson's Burners Go Raw...

I found a copy of the LRB on the floor in my flat. It had been kicked under the sofa but the plastic wrap was still on so I blew the dust off and tore into it. A glance down the contents revealed an essay by Michael Wood on Roberto Bolano's books 2666 and Nazi Literature in the Americas.

I turned to the relevant pages and saw the LRB had done what the LRB tends to do and stuck a poem in the middle of the review. My usual reaction to these poems is to read a few lines, yawn, shrug and then read the review. But this poem was different.

It was called Burners Go Raw and it was by someone called Anne Carson. The poem was like no poem I have read before. I read it. I read it again. I have since read it five more times and can't get away from it. I am beguiled. I even forgot to read the Bolano reviews for a few days - each time I turned to those pages I found myself reading the poem again...

On further exploration it seems some people feel Anne Carson is hardly a poet. She herself says she is more of a visual person and hesitates to describe herself as a writer. What she does with words is different. It's better. It's poetry, that's for sure. Or music? What her writing really reminds me of is hearing fragments of several different conversations whilst walking round a supermarket. Lives and situations hinted at. Glancing blows. Adverts for mental states that are best avoided. Hospital waiting rooms. Theatres after everyone has left. Carousels on the rubbish dump. Naked mannequins queuing for the No 12 bus. All the things you never quite remember to say to the people you say you love. The exhausted hiss of breath that was going to be those famous last words...

(She's one of those discoveries I feel compelled to share. Forgive me if you are there already!) Sometimes language can and sometimes it can't I suppose.


  1. AnonymousMay 13, 2009

    Yes, Anne Carson is a poet...and translator, critic and teacher and, yes - she has her detractors (some serious, some not). She read at the Royal Festival Hall with Margaret Atwood and the brilliant August Kleinzhaler. It was packed and fervent, and Ms Carson was utterly compelling. If you've just discovered her read Autobiography of Red right now. No, not later - right now OK?

  2. I've ordered Autobiography of Red already...can't wait to read it.

  3. this is great, thanks for the link I'd not come accross her before....

    I might even order one of her books from you.