Friday, August 28, 2009

Anne Carson’s String Theory

from the article,

Carson, the Lillian Vernon Writer-in-Residence at the NYU Creative Writing Program, has under her name as many awards as books and is one of a very few surviving examples of a nearly extinct species: the famous living poet. (Seven hundred people, Friday night, New York City, poet—any questions?) Her outsize fan base can be partly attributed to the fact that Carson is not really a poet, exactly, or not only a poet. Rather, she is a postmodernist-classicist textual artist, as comfortable writing about Aretha Franklin and Joseph Beuys as about Sappho and Ovid, as likely to deploy spare bursts of arrhythmic prose as dactyls and trochees. Since the 1960s, a playful bunch of Renaissance Faire types calling themselves the Society for Creative Anachronism have carved a place for themselves in the Bay Area. While Carson is not, academically speaking, a medievalist—nor, judging from her slim frame, a mutton-and-mead kind of gal—the title suits her: She is a creative anachronist.

For a writer fixated on the color red, the Skirball Center was a sympathetic venue. The seats lining the handsome, wood-paneled auditorium were upholstered in a fetching fire-engine hue. These were filled by an equally attractive all-ages crowd that radiated the kind of anticipatory excitement usually reserved for rock stars. Without flourish, Creative Writing Program director Deborah Landau emerged onstage, welcomed the audience, and introduced Mark Bibbins, who in turn introduced Carson, announcing that he had made a film to kick off the evening. Quoting Brian Eno, Bibbins said his film was guided by the principle that “it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” After ten or so minutes of close-up shots of paintings, collages, and pages from Carson’s books, scored by ambient electronic music, Bibbins had succeeded in meeting this standard.

Then Carson appeared, resembling a fashionable student in her naval-inspired jacket, black floral pleated skirt, black tights, and red cowboy boots, accompanied by the yarn man and the three dancers (two males, one female). In a tiny voice, Carson said that tonight was a “neo-post-Fluxus evening,” deadpanning that we were looking at the entirety of the movement. She explained that the first fragments she would be reading were from the subject index of Roni Horn’s forthcoming 2009 Whitney Museum retrospective catalogue, the writers of which, including Carson, had been asked to base their entries on the artwork titles. Carson admitted that she had misunderstood the instructions, writing on individual words in the titles instead. One fragment involved H. G. Wells’s long-suffering wife. Carson read in a breathy, affectless voice, occasionally rolling on her ankles.


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