Poetry Month: Anne Carson review now online

April 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Red_DocMy review of Red Doc>, Anne Carson’s “sort-of sequel” to her 1998 bestseller Autobiography of Red is online at Quill & Quire.

The book is formally a picaresque, featuring a group of characters – including G’s former lover, a veteran known as Sad But Great, who suffers from a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder; a woman named Ida; and, in a parallel narrative stream, a musk ox named Io – travelling across various landscapes before confronting a volcano (which echoes scenes from the earlier book) and finally arriving at the deathbed of G’s mother.

The narrative style resembles the stream-of-consciousness employed by the high modernists; Carson recalls Proust explicitly on numerous occasions. But the transitions often feel arbitrary: in one instance, a kind of Greek chorus that intermittently comments on the narrative notes, “they’ve come / by mistake to a private clinic beside a glacial lake run / by a guy in overalls who (luckily) does know how to install / a driveshaft.”

Also included in this special Poetry Month roundup are reviews of nine other new titles, including starred reviews for collections by Michael Crummey, Lorna Goodison, and Robert Melançon (translated by Judith Cowan), as well as a starred review of the new anthology Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry, about which, reviewer Safa Jinje has this to say:

Not since 1976, when Harold Head published Canada in Us Now, has there been such a definitive assemblage of black voices telling their own stories through poetry. The Great Black North avoids the danger of constructing a monolithic narrative of the African-Canadian experience by amassing a throng of tales that includes Caribbean-Canadians and other diasporic voices.

I’ve had a chance to dip into this one myself, and would wholeheartedly echo Jinje’s endorsement.