Saturday, 30 April 2016


I don't really understand Anne Carson's poetry. Well to be honest, there's a lot of poetry that I love that I don't really understand. If it were easy to understand it would be good prose I suppose but, for me, poetry is a way to recognise and appreciate the beauty and mystery in things that are hard to understand. Or something like that...

So Anne Carson. Her book "Nox", a strange journey through and beyond poem 101 by Catullus, has been a nightly companion of mine for several years, on my bedside table nestled amongst the Heaneys and Plaths. (I wrote about it here a few years ago.) That I don't fully understand it is a part of its strange attraction to me, reading in the half-light until I'm suddenly struck by an instant of clarity, a stark truth perceived as through a glass darkly, or, as she tells us of her lost brother, a feeling of abject loss and loneliness that can move me close to tears.

Two weeks ago my eldest son and I went to a reading of Carson's work Antigonick, part of the Blue Metropolis festival, with the poet herself giving an introductory lecture. Listening to her talk was a similar experience to reading her poetry; clarity followed by confusion, like a distant radio station whose signal fades in and out. Beckett and Brecht were mentioned. Then she abruptly sat down and the play began.

Luckily both my son and I are familiar with the story of Antigone so we could focus on the characters, their thoughts and words, without having to struggle to follow the plot or the confusing relationships (fathers yet brothers, mothers yet lovers). We enjoyed our evening and though some of the actors seemed to struggle with the text, those playing Antigone, Kreon and the one-man chorus, were quite excellent.

And I was doubly happy to share such an evening with my 15-year-old son. Afterwards we discussed whether Antigone could be considered a feminist icon (possibly) or a symbol for civil disobedience (definitely) - a distinct change from our conversation earlier in the evening (should Arsenal continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation or put two players up front instead?)

So I bought the book Antigonick by Carson, and it's on my bedside table now. Just like Nox, the text is accompanied by strange illustrations and notes which I don't really understand...

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