Anne Carson

Anne Carson Punches a Hole Through Greek Myth

In her 2019 poem “Sappho Drives Upstate (Fr. 2),” Anne Carson depicts a soothing pastoral scene of two white horses in a field—a timeless, bucolic vignette. Then the last two lines arrive like a shock to the system: “All this—you tore a hole, pushed your arm through, hit the switch.” This sentence could serve as a warning label (or intellectual advertisement) of what the 71-year-old Canadian poet does to the classics, ripping them out of the past, shocking them back to life as if with electrical voltage, bringing the monsters of Greek myth to walk among us, slouch, punch, kiss, go back to bed, kill. Carson is an oracular figure especially among gay readers thanks to her 1998 “novel in verse” Autobiography of Red, which reimagines Geryon, the monster that Hercules slays in his tenth labor, as an awkward, vulnerable gay teenager in love with his hunky boyfriend Herakles. It remains to this day one of the most complex and loving portraits in contemporary queer fiction. Carson has returned to Herakles and Geryon more than once in her radical work, most recently in H of H Playbook, rejiggering Euripides’s 5th-century BC tragedy in which the hero returns from his labors only to succumb to madness and murder his entire family. The book also features the poet’s work as a visual artist, mixing her dialog with drawings produced during a stay in Iceland. The pages are frenetic accretions of text, mark-making, and erasure; abstraction and figuration rendered in chalk, acrylic paint, pencil, and eraser. In 2018, Carson appeared in a film by British artist Tacita Dean, reading from a poem on Antigone. This past October, the poet, who lives and teaches in Michigan, spoke on Zoom to Dean, who happened to be tackling her own adaptation of a classic: spearheading the costumes and design for the London Royal Ballet’s “The Dante Project.” — CHRISTOPHER BOLLEN.
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George C. Wolfe, Anne Carson win PEN achievement awards

NEW YORK (AP) — Tony Award-winner George C. Wolfe and Canadian poet-translator Anne Carson are among this year’s winners of PEN America awards for career achievement. Wolfe, whose credits range from writing the musical “Jelly’s Last Jam” to directing “Angels In America,” has received the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award for work that “enlightens and inspires audiences.” Carson, a three-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle poetry award and an acclaimed translator of Greek drama, has won the PEN/Nabokov Award for work of “enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship.”
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