Anne Carson and I first met in 1988 at a writers’ workshop in Canada, and have been reading each other’s work ever since.
The interview that follows is a mix of our usual conversation and discussion about topics that preoccupy Carson’s work—mysticism, antiquity, obsession, desire.
Canadian venues were considerably less welcoming, and it was not until Carson was forty-two that a small Canadian pub- lisher, Brick Books, published her first book of poems, both in 2002.
Awards and accolades came tumbling in: a Guggenheim Fellowship (1995); a Lannan Award (1996); the Pushcart Prize (1997); a Mac Arthur Fellowship (2000); and the Griffin Prize for Poetry (2001).
And that’s true of the persona in the poem, but it’s also true of me as me.
INTERVIEWER When you look back on “The Glass Essay,” for example, do you consider it a personal poem? CARSON I see it as a messing around on an upper level with things that I wanted to make sense of at a deeper level.I do think I have an ability to record sensual and emotional facts—to construct a convincing surface of what life feels like, both physical life and emotional life.But when I wrote “The Glass Essay,” I also wanted to do something that I would call understanding what life feels like, and I don’t believe I did. INTERVIEWER Or that it might be a failure to you, but a success for everybody else who picks it up?— INTERVIEWER I want to start with your poem “Stanzas, Sexes, Seductions.” There’s a line in there that stopped me right in the middle: “My personal poetry is a failure.” It made me wonder two things: What do you call your personal poetry?And do you really feel it’s a failure or is that just the poem’s persona talking?Today, Carson lives in Ann Arbor, where she teaches classics and comparative literature at the University of Michigan.Although she has always been reluctant to call herself a poet, Carson has been writing some heretic form of poetry almost all her life.I also don’t know what it would be to do that, but if you read Virginia Woolf or George Eliot, there’s a fragrance of understanding you come away with—this smell in your head of having gone through something that you understood with the people in the story. INTERVIEWER Is that because it’s still part of your ongoing personal experience? CARSON I think so, because this capturing of the surface of emotional fact is useful for other people in that it jolts them into thinking, into doing their own act of understanding. INTERVIEWER There’s another line in “Stanzas, Sexes, Seductions”—“I want to be unbearable”—that strikes me as exact and expressive of you as a writer.CARSON I remember that sentence driving at me in the dark like a glacier.She was twice a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; was honored with the 1996 Lannan Award and the 1997 Pushcart Prize, both for poetry; and was named a Mac Arthur Fellow in 2000. She currently teaches Classics and comparative literature at the University of Michigan.Anne Carson was twice a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; was honored with the 1996 Lannan Award and the 1997 Pushcart Prize, both for poetry; and was named a Mac Arthur Fellow in 2000. She currently teaches at the University of Michigan. Carson, Anne is the author of 'Decreation Poetry, Essays, Opera', published 2006 under ISBN 9781400078905 and ISBN 1400078903.