Monday, August 06, 2007

Dear Anne Carson


Dear Anne Carson,

I am writing you this letter because I believe it's always nice to hear what readers have to say about your work, even if your reader is nothing more than a humbled high school English teacher who sometimes has trouble with tricky word pairs (who & whom, lay & lie being the ones fighting me the most) and often has typos in her blog and can't spell her way out of a paper bag. My teacher Michael Dennis Browne (who is a poet himself) always urged us to write letters to those poets we are reading; I suspect this is because he liked the letters himself. I always tell my students to do things (tell those teachers you love that you love them) that I wouldn't mind receiving myself.

Of course, this is a blog entry and not a letter, but that is OK. It's as close as I can get, for now. Please forgive the spelling and typos, though.

But these are my inadequacies, and this is about you, though not about inadequacies, but rather, magicalities, the things that have sprung up in your work and inspired me.

I write this sitting in what we call our "second bedroom," but I'm slowly accepting that I could start to call it "a studio." After all, poetry lines the walls, my desk is newly cleared, and the futon is upright, ready for a lounging read. I've begun to turn to this place as somewhere of safety, escape. Do you have a place like this in your home? I know I'll have to give it up one day once we start having children, but for now, I will relish in my space. Virginia Woolf would be proud.

I've only read two of your books: The Autobiography of Red (read, in one sitting, as one poet has recently recommended, yesterday afternoon, while my fiance cleaned the downstairs, annoyed I was not helping, especially after I stomped around, hating how messy our house is) and Plainwater (this, "assigned" by another poet in a poetry group that fell apart this summer, but I still have my reading list, and I will still happily work my way through these books).

I must admit, starting with Plainwater was perhaps inadvisable as I found myself often confused. This was not a book to read in one sitting; instead, I caught little bits of it as my students read or planned theatre, as I should have been reading the plays a second time along with them, but instead, read your book, jotting down words and phrases that tasted like a peach on my tongue:

- sharp ribcage
- blue lips of ocean
- nerves pouring around
- Freud says a dream is either a wish or a counter wish
- Are you going to put that chair back where it belongs or just leave it there looking like a uterus?
- Water is something you cannot hold. Like men.
- I feel summer sinking into the earth.
- I am wondering about the color green. Why it hurts like sound hurts inside a jar.
- ... he remembers she used to get little bruises on her hips from lovemaking.
- arms rubbery with joy
- on trial for ... betrayal of pleasure
- his voice is standing above me
- sky so blue it comes off in your eyes
- (brush strokes) leaving areas of white exposed to view like sudden bones
- root silver, cream black

I also read, at the urging of Eireann, then of Carolyn, (aforementioned two poets) Autobiography of Red. It's interesting, but I read this book just after a poetry workshop in which I read a poet who reminded me a lot of you, who startled me in such a concise way, who mixed in essay with sparse poetry, who gave me images to roll around on my tongue like hard candy, so beautiful. He said you were one of his favorites, and I understand where that influence comes from now; you are lucky to have such a talented poet looking up to you. You are lucky to have so much talent yourself.

Here are some small phrases from this book that lingered with me:

- rummaging in his face with her eyes
- they recognized each other like italics
- why are you alone in this huge blank garden like a piece of electricity?
- photography is a way of playing with perceptual relationships

This poem, which is a novel, which is a poem, was something I could enter and travel through... And feel the shifting emotional landscape of the characters and love the way wings were natural and the shifting of mythology, the genre-bending and the pace. I love the smoothness of this book, the little bookends, the interviews in conversational form, the if-then consequences. The way I felt the love and yearning, the way the family was enough and not enough, the way it was all so important at such an early age.

And I will read more. I have a long way to go as a student and a poet, but I think I'm on the right track now.

Gros bisous,
Molly

2 comments:

Brambleberry said...

I think it's wonderful to express appreciation. Couldn't we all use a bit more affirmation?! So good to know there are teachers like you, teaching life lessons along side everything else.

Kudos.

darinhercules said...

Wonderful letter. I enjoyed reading it.

As a former English teacher, the clue to who/whom is to replace those pronouns with he/him. Whom is always the object.

Lay, lie? still trip me up.