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The poetry and prose collected in Plainwater are a testament to the extraordinary imagination of Anne Carson, a writer described by Michael Ondaatje as "the most exciting poet writing in English today." Succinct and astonishingly beautiful, these pieces stretch the boundaries of language and literary form, while juxtaposing classical and modern traditions. Carson envisions The poetry and prose collected in Plainwater are a testament to the extraordinary imagination of Anne Carson, a writer described by Michael Ondaatje as "the most exciting poet writing in English today." Succinct and astonishingly beautiful, these pieces stretch the boundaries of language and literary form, while juxtaposing classical and modern traditions. Carson envisions a present-day interview with a seventh-century BC poet, and offers miniature lectures on topics as varied as orchids and Ovid. She imagines the muse of a fifteenth-century painter attending a phenomenology conference in Italy. She constructs verbal photographs of a series of mysterious towns, and takes us on a pilgrimage in pursuit of the elusive and intimate anthropology of water. Blending the rhythm and vivid metaphor of poetry with the discursive nature of the essay, the writings in Plainwater dazzle us with their invention and enlighten us with their erudition.


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The poetry and prose collected in Plainwater are a testament to the extraordinary imagination of Anne Carson, a writer described by Michael Ondaatje as "the most exciting poet writing in English today." Succinct and astonishingly beautiful, these pieces stretch the boundaries of language and literary form, while juxtaposing classical and modern traditions. Carson envisions The poetry and prose collected in Plainwater are a testament to the extraordinary imagination of Anne Carson, a writer described by Michael Ondaatje as "the most exciting poet writing in English today." Succinct and astonishingly beautiful, these pieces stretch the boundaries of language and literary form, while juxtaposing classical and modern traditions. Carson envisions a present-day interview with a seventh-century BC poet, and offers miniature lectures on topics as varied as orchids and Ovid. She imagines the muse of a fifteenth-century painter attending a phenomenology conference in Italy. She constructs verbal photographs of a series of mysterious towns, and takes us on a pilgrimage in pursuit of the elusive and intimate anthropology of water. Blending the rhythm and vivid metaphor of poetry with the discursive nature of the essay, the writings in Plainwater dazzle us with their invention and enlighten us with their erudition.

30 review for Plainwater: Essays and Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    When you enjoy a new-to-you author this much, you just hope you haven't made the mistake of choosing her best book to read first. And though Plainwater is a flavorful mix of essays and poetry, it really amounts to poetry, whether in traditional lines and stanzas or hidden in paragraph form. The lady has a word with ways, as they say. The book opens modestly enough with "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings," which is an interview between the author and a 7th-century B.C. poet (but of course!). The m When you enjoy a new-to-you author this much, you just hope you haven't made the mistake of choosing her best book to read first. And though Plainwater is a flavorful mix of essays and poetry, it really amounts to poetry, whether in traditional lines and stanzas or hidden in paragraph form. The lady has a word with ways, as they say. The book opens modestly enough with "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings," which is an interview between the author and a 7th-century B.C. poet (but of course!). The moral of the story? If you like an ancient poet, make like a ventriloquist and give him a new voice. After this comes "Short Talks," the perfect thing for these short-attention-span times. Most of these entries are a mere paragraph long, with titles like "On Trout," "On Disappointments in Music," "On Ovid," "On Parmenides," "On Waterproofing," "On the Mona Lisa," "On Sylvia Plath," and "On Reading." Sweet and short, the shortest of the lot is "On Gertrude Stein About 9:30," which goes like so: "How curious. I had no idea! Today has ended." Section 3, "Canicula di Anna," is full-fledged poetry--44 pages of a phenomenology conference in Perugia, Italy. If you have no idea what phenomenology is and how on earth (much less Italy) it would merit a conference, know that it is, according to both Merriam and Webster, "the study of the development of human consciousness and self-awareness as a preface to or a part of philosophy." As they say in Canada: "Oh." "The Life of Towns," Part 4, is similar to "Short Talks" except it is written as short poems. The beyond-curious thing about these guys is that every line in every poem starts with a capital letter and ends with a period--even when it's not a sentence. Exhibit B ("A" being busy): "Luck Town" by Anne Carson Digging a hole. To bury his child alive. So that he could buy food for his aged mother. One day. A man struck gold. Once you get used to the quirky periods (that must be ignored) and to the fact that Carson has forced you to slow down and read her poems slowly, you're safe at the plate. Finally, the book wraps up with a travelogue of sorts called "The Anthropology of Water." It's about Anne and a boyfriend doing the Simon & Garfunkel thing ("Yes, we've all gone to look for America..."). It's like snooping in a poet's diary, this section, and you not only get an idea about camping (of all things), but learn about the psychology of man and woman in close quarters (pup tents, sleeping bags, cars, etc.) and the communion one feels with nature, even under times of stress. My favorite line in this section, running away (like the dish and spoon)? Easy. It's two lines under the heading Friday 4:00 a.m. Not swimming.: "Staring. The lake lies like a silver tongue in a black mouth." Let me stare at that line again. If it's 4 a.m. as I do so, even better. And if I'm in a cabin right on a lake, better still. Deep inhale. Slow exhale. Throughout all of these sections, Carson explores her fraught relationship with her father. Yep. He's another one of those strict, man-of-few-words types who bears a daughter-of-many-words and has trouble showing his love. What is it with men who have trouble showing their love? In its way, the theme of this lovely book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Like two particles in a complex sentence we sit side by side moving forward, eyes on the road. Parataxis is a charged instance of language cold on the surface, unexplained underneath. Let my courage not abandon me. Body and shadow comfort one another, says ancient Chinese wisdom. I spent much of my childhood staring straight ahead at the hood of a car and America unrolling to the horizon. Father too drove with eyes on the road. Stop the tape and look at these people, one young and one old. Like Like two particles in a complex sentence we sit side by side moving forward, eyes on the road. Parataxis is a charged instance of language cold on the surface, unexplained underneath. Let my courage not abandon me. Body and shadow comfort one another, says ancient Chinese wisdom. I spent much of my childhood staring straight ahead at the hood of a car and America unrolling to the horizon. Father too drove with eyes on the road. Stop the tape and look at these people, one young and one old. Like two stars hung in a deep wind in space, who appear motionless as they hurtle toward each other at 186,213 miles per second in a silence that cracks a wall. It has everything. Didn't know if I was reading fiction or non-fic, ancient or modern, poetry or prose, sacred or profane. I just kind of want to model my life on this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    mwpm

    The collection is divided into five parts: "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings"; "Short Talks"; "Canicula di Anna"; "The Life of Towns"; and "The Anthropology of Water". The first part, "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings", presents the fragmented writings of the Greek elegiac poet Mimnermos. It is unclear whether or not these are the authentic writings of Mimnermos. This may be a translation by Anne Carson. This may be a re-imagining of Mimnermos's writings. It is unclear... fr. 14 None Such as Him The collection is divided into five parts: "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings"; "Short Talks"; "Canicula di Anna"; "The Life of Towns"; and "The Anthropology of Water". The first part, "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings", presents the fragmented writings of the Greek elegiac poet Mimnermos. It is unclear whether or not these are the authentic writings of Mimnermos. This may be a translation by Anne Carson. This may be a re-imagining of Mimnermos's writings. It is unclear... fr. 14 None Such as Him He looks to memory. None such: amid the butting bulls none such on the death flanks of Hermos. None. Those elders who saw him saw the source points. It stung God. They say his spinal chord ran straight out of the sun. (pg. 9) Anne Carson renders irrelevant the question of the writings' authenticity by exploring the writing both with a conventional essay, "Mimnermos and the Motions of Hedonism" (which notably begins with a quote from Kafka), and with unconventional interviews, "The Mimnermos Interviews (1-3)"... M: Don't get angry I: I'm not angry I am conscientious M: Like moss I: What an odd thing to say have you ever been psychoanalyzed M: Not so far as I know why do you ask I: Moss is the name of my analyst (pg. 19) The second part, "Short Talks", is prefaced with an introduction in which the poet states that she "will do anything to avoid boredom". The pieces that follow seem to have emerged from this avoidance of boredom, unless it was overheard from "three old women [who] were bending down in the fields", who "knew everything there is to know about the snowy fields and the blue-green shoots and the plant called 'audacity,' which poets mistake for violets" (pg. 29) The introduction shows evidence of Gertrude Stein's influence. Indeed, Stein's influence is present throughout the book, as it is present throughout Carson's body of work. Carson even acknowledges her debt to Stein with a short piece (or "short talk") called "On Gertrude Stein About 9:30" ... How curious. I had no idea! today has ended. (pg. 31) The pieces vary in length, from one line to one page. Each pieces is written on one subject or another, inverting the classical form into something comic or poetic (or both)... Beauty makes me hopeless. I don't care why anymore I just want to get away. When I look at the city of Paris I long to wrap my legs around it. When I watch you dancing there is a heartless immensity like a sailor in a dead-calm sea. Desires as round as peaches bloom in me all night, I no longer gather what falls. - On Hedonism (pg. 44) The third part, "Canicula di Anna", is reminiscent of AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED - or perhaps it's AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED that is reminiscent of "Canicula di Anna"? Suffice to say that it follows the poet's familiar and effective device - that is, the juxtaposition of classical and modern traditions. The fourth part, "The Life of Towns", is a collection of poems exploring a theme established in the introduction: "Towns are the illusion that things hang together somehow..." (pg. 93) The poems may seem somewhat scattered, but each is a different take on the idea of a "town", and each adheres to the same form. Here, Carson decides to end each line with a period, as if each line were its own sentence, though it clearly isn't. In this way, she opposes the illusion "that things hang together"... Twenty-five. To four a. Black. Tinkle of the moon grazes. It knocks. It. Off. The blade. Of night like a. Paring. - Town of the Man in the Mind at Night (pg. 103) The fifth part, "The Anthropology of Water", is itself divided into seven parts: "Diving: Introduction to the Anthropology of Water"; "Thirst: Introduction to Kinds of Water"; "Kinds of Water: An Essay on the Road to Compostela"; "Very Narros: Introduction to Just for the Thrill"; "Just for the Thrill: An Essay on the Difference Between Men and Woman"; "The Wishing Jewel: Introduction to Water Margins"; and "Water Margins: An Essay on Swimming by My Brother". Reading "Diving: Introduction to the Anthropology of Water", one is reminded that while the five parts of the collection may be read apart from each other, they're also linked and contribute to the bigger picture. The Introduction begins, like the first essay "Mimnermos and the Motions of Hedonism", with a quote from Kafka. What's more, "Thirst: Introduction to Kinds of Water" makes direct reference to the quoted by Kafka used in "Mimnermos and the Motions of Hedonism"... "I think it was Kafka who had the idea of swimming across Europe and planned to do so with his friend Max, river by river. Unfortunately his health wasn't up to it. So instead he started to write a parable about a man who had never learned to swim." (pg. 119) In the "Introduction to the Anthropology of Water" recounts the story of Danaos ("a hero of ancient Greek Myth"). It is characteristic of Carson to incorporate mythology into her poetry. Here, the story of Danaos ends with the marriage of his 50 daughters to 50 suitors, and the murders of 49 of those suitors as the hands of 49 of his daughters. Their punishment, as the reader has already guessed from the title of the fifth part, is related to water. The Introduction concludes... "But yes, there was on daughter who did not draw her sword. What happened to her remains to be discovered...." (pg. 118) In the "Introduction to Kinds of Water", the poet transitions into the narrative of her aging and ailing father. The narrative of her father continues throughout the subsequent parts. It was her father who said to the poet "How can you see your life unless you leave it?" (pg. 122) and set into motion the pilgrimage detailed in the third part. Something I liked about the second part, the poet's specification of the supplies she packed for her pilgrimage... "I packed my rucksack with socks, canteen, pencils, three empty notebooks." (pg. 123) The third part, "Kinds of Water: An Essay on the Road to Compostela", takes the form of journal entries. Each entry begins with the location (the location may be named, like "St. Jean Pied de Port", or it may be prefaced with "To" or "From" depending on the poet's status, coming or going, in relation to the location in question), followed by the date (the entries are dated from "20th of June" to "26th of July") and a quotation... the good thing is we know the glasses are for drinking - Machado (quoted on pg. 124) The typical entry records the poet's observations of the city, often focusing on water in one form or another. She details her relationship with her traveling companion, whom she has nicknamed "My Cid" (because "it speeds up the storytelling"). Finally, every entry ends with a comment about pilgrims... "Pilgrims were people who loved good riddles." (pg. 124) "Pilgrims were people whose recipes were simple." (pg. 134) "Pilgrims were people glad to take off their clothing, which was on fire." (pg. 154) Entries that don't end with a comment about pilgrims often contain a comment somewhere within the text... "Even the earliest Pilgrim's Guide, published in A.D. 1130, contains remarks touching the dilemma of the pilgrim who reaches his destination and cannot bear to stop." (pg. 144) One of my favourite lines from this part... "I am a pilgrim (not a novelist) and the only story I have to tell is the road itself." (pg. 152) The fourth part, "Very Narros: Introduction to Just for the Thrill", continues the narrative of the father, effectively introduces the theme of the fifth part (being the difference between men and women) before transitioning into the poet's next pilgrimage. The fifth part, "Just for the Thrill: An Essay on the Difference Between Men and Woman", though it takes the form of journal entries, more closely resembles a travel journal (neglecting date and focusing instead on location). The contents, however, focus more on, not surprisingly, the relationship between the poet and her travel companion - not the same travel companion, it seems, but a man she nicknames "the emperor of China" - apparently because "love made him so happy", but more likely because he was "an anthropologist from China, using this trip across America to study up on classical Chinese" (pg. 193). In the place of comments about pilgrims, most entries include "classical Chinese wisdom"... "A person without a smiling face should not open a shop." (pg. 198) "Brush cannot write two words at the same time." (pg. 207) One of my favourite lines from this part... "The emperor of China likes the idea of making love to women fitted with false penises. I try not to neglect anything that is part of him. It is rather like watching somebody die." (pg. 203) The sixth and seventh parts, "The Wishing Jewel: Introduction to Water Margins" and "Water Margins: An Essay on Swimming by My Brother", is written from the perspective of the poet's brother, though it is made apparent by the Introduction that it is the poet writing from her brother's perspective. The Introduction provides the background narrative, in which her brother disappears ("for reasons having partly to do with the police, partly with my father - it doesn't matter now") on a pilgrimage to China (following the Eastern themes explored in the fifth part and the overarching exploration of the pilgrim and pilgrimage). The seventh part, like the third and fifth parts, takes the form of journal entries. Each entry is preceded by the day of the week, the time, and the brother's status (either "Swimming" or "Not Swimming", as if this has come to define his entire existence). A typical entry looks like this... Friday 10:00 p.m. Not Swimming. Over the unmoving black body of the lake the moon dreams its gold dream of life, as if it were alone in the world and what dreamer is not? (pg. 259) And then it ends abruptly. Overall, I'm impressed with this collection, as I have been impressed with everything I've read by Anne Carson (with the exception of RED DOC>). More than anything else I've read, this collection felt more personal. I don't know enough about the poet to know the extent to which she had drawn from autobiographical sources. But whether or not the source is autobiography is not the question. The quality of the work transcends autobiography, and renders irrelevant the question of source.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    12.26.02 – Notice of Termination of Lease (from my landlord) Due to my financial situation, I regret to inform you that I am forced to sell the house you are living in now. This letter serves as your 30 day notice. Please move out completely by January 31, 2003. 12.31.02 – The Year of the Horse I’m holding on to a new book. It is white like a small hand opening. Like the new year drifting its white-out over the frozen grass. The pages are stiff, each being convinced to turn over. It is learning the 12.26.02 – Notice of Termination of Lease (from my landlord) Due to my financial situation, I regret to inform you that I am forced to sell the house you are living in now. This letter serves as your 30 day notice. Please move out completely by January 31, 2003. 12.31.02 – The Year of the Horse I’m holding on to a new book. It is white like a small hand opening. Like the new year drifting its white-out over the frozen grass. The pages are stiff, each being convinced to turn over. It is learning the mechanism of its own flipping. Pressing its ear to the spine, it listens for clicks. Across the table, Dawn declares 2003 the year of the horse. How can horses sleep standing up? I think of a precise machine fitting for a horse. A white horse in the snow, breathing out dense clouds. A spotted horse drinking from the edge of a lake. A black horse walking away in the desert. The shape of a horse is indefinite, as any body of water will tell you. You fall through and through. The year of the horse. Is it? 01.11.03 - Interview with Anne Carson I: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed Ms. Carson. In your book, Plainwater, I understand you have included some fragments of Mimnermos' poetry. What is the importance of understanding these, and why did you choose to open the book with this disjunctive series? A: Please call me Annie. I: Alright Annie. Are you tired of these questions already? A: I'm tired of Freud. I bet you're tired of Aphrodite. You're probably tired of me, and you haven't even gotten to the good part of the book yet. I: Yes, but the crust is good dipped in chicken soup. D: Motherfucker, give me some of that. I: Dawn? Where did Annie go? D: I don't know man. Hand it over. I: Dude, you were Annie... I mean, you were Miss Anne Carson just ten seconds ago, I swear. Am I dreaming? D: I'm tired of Freud. You wouldn't believe what my Queer Theory professor said today. I: I don't want to know. I was doing an interview. I guess I'll ask you my next question: What's the function of beauty in art? D: Well, a pretty girl is good to look at. And I guess you need that in art because art needs to be good to look at, too. A: There's probably more wisdom in there than you think. I: Annie? Is that you? D: No. Hey, did you read that Plainwater book? I thought we were gonna talk about it. I: Yeah, I just finished this section with interviews and shit. A: Can a butterfly ever be beautiful? What the butterfly does not understand is her own reflection in the pond. She folds her wings behind her as she lands, forming each past movement in reverse. In my imagination, I am so sure that the water in Kolophon is always cold. I'd like to pull up my dress and step in, but I'm scared. I don't know why. This is always when I grow older. Perhaps this fear is related to my sister's drowning. I see her face in the water at night. Does that answer your question, Dr. Moss? I: Who's Doctor Moss? 01.16.03 – Properties of Glass An empty house is indefinite as a horse. It is an echo chamber, born to convince us of ourselves. As I was saying that, I was distracted. I was withdrawing into boxes that will later be unboxed. It is easy to be distracted by random objects on the walls. The bedside table spilling over with books and coffee mugs. A pilgrimage is a disguise for a spiritual journey to find the self. The destination is not as important as the physical act of moving through space. Waking up in a lake after a dream of drought. But this is no pilgrimage. No. Not like that at all. This is not about moving through spaces. It is about walls and windows. How many windows do I need? When I was 12, I heard rumors that there was a house being built entirely of glass. Is that a house without walls or a house without windows? I wanted so much to live there, but I didn’t know why. How can a horse sleep standing up? It is its own house. 01.18.03 - Theory of Adjectives How many degrees of separation between Pina Bausch and this cup of tea? Anne takes a sip from it. She's fixed to the pages curled in her left hand. Outside, the smell of burnt garbage tumbles upwards. It's late August, and the mockingbirds are swooping down like wild fire at your ear. In every story, something always represents love. Or someone. Anne turns another page. This one's riddled with disease, slow infinitives. Prepositional phrases. In a month, the streets will freeze. It takes a dead body 23 minutes to reach room temperature. Patches of ice form continents. Her apartment's small. So small, pacing becomes necessary. There are pictures of Ophelia on the wall next to polaroids of her mother in a blue scarf. Poems scattered on her floor like seed. Buddha says I, too, use concepts, but I am not fooled thereby. Anne writes a sentence in the margin that resembles a woman whose back has given out. 01.19.03 - Exegesis Is that all we must go on? I can tell you that there is a curiosity in the mosquito's stirring, the phenomenologists counter-stirring. Between these, an ancient dialectic, perhaps? Some air thrown out between two soft sheets? A city inside a stone? The overheard words: I'm not sure I overheard them anymore. The first time I met Anna, she was caught between these gravities. One was painting her with vermillion, the scorpion's scald. The other was an overheard conversation, a long distance call, her father's death. She showed me the blue veins mapping both her arms. As if scars. I can tell you how to keep the dogs out, their barking barking. But not what the barking means. What I'm trying to say is. The scars, let's go back to the scars. I mean, veins. Like frescoes, graffiti on the tombs of the Museo Archeologico. Powdered lead, cypress resin, a careful science. I mean, silence. Carson's use of white space, adjectives, no. Her use of. Invention? No, her freedom from convention. No. The first time I met Anna, she was furiously dancing. I don't remember much else. Maybe she showed me her arms, maybe not. Maybe I overheard murderer. Heidegger? A man was sitting next to me, covered in a shawl. No, a Yankees cap. When he reached for his drink, I saw on his fingers the ground up leaves, black manganate, tint of flesh. 01.21.03 - Interview with Jimmy Lo A: Thanks for agreeing to interview with me Mr. Lo. About your review of my book... J: Yes. Umm.. Well, that's a touchy subject, isn't it? Maybe you shouldn't have been the one doing this interview. I mean, I'm still in the middle of writing it, and there's that whole ethical thing... A: You think I'm going to influence your opinion of my book? J: Well, if we start talking more often, you know, go out on a few dates and stuff, things could get out of hand. I need to remain objective about this. A: Our relationship is strictly professional. J: Yes, yes I'll try. A: Tell me about Dawn. J: Dawn? A: Yes, this person was not in my book. Yet you've confused her with me during the second section of your review. J: She's not? I thought she... Oh, well maybe I just made her up. A: You're a real asshole, you know? J: Sorry. 01.22.03 Apt. J10 Ansley Forest, Monroe Dr. Patricia, 21, has two dogs, frequent guests, and smokes indoors in winter. I know this, but I'm here anyway. She opens the door, smiling. She works at a pet care place down the street. Her boyfriend is on the couch. Nice location, I say. The room is bare. Take a seat. The TV sits on a stack of Yellow Pages. One of the dogs is a baby pit bull. My dad used to own a pit bull, I say. We gave him away cause he got too aggressive. The kitchen's loaded with unwashed dishes. Her boyfriend asks if I want to smoke pot. We watch commercials. So, what do you do? I work for a design firm. I do web pages. Stains on the carpet. You don't go to school? I graduated. From Tech. Computer Science. Oh, cool, that's what he's doing too. Bauder College. Jeopardy on TV. One of the dogs really likes me. I think her name is Lucy. I better go. I'll let you know soon. OK, Aufwiedersehen. You know German? Yeah, we lived in Germany for a while. Hey, do you know a German word that sounds like "function lust". It means something like "joy in doing"... 01.23.03 453 Curran Street A student lives here. Her room smells of perfume and has blue walls (imagine sleeping in a small red boat in the center of a lake). Windows hang on the wall like upside down roses. The landlord walks beside me. He talks about central heat and air. The ceiling is warped where a brown stain shows through. That was from a leak, he says. but we fixed it. Imagine sleeping in a boat while the lake drains into a red bucket. 01.25.03 - Funktionslust Sometimes I go because of the voice. 1 bedroom. Washer/dryer. Sometimes I draw out the person before we even meet. It doesn't matter who they are. What they do. I enjoy passing through. Monte del Gozo. Another exit off the highway, another town with a strange name. I look at their pictures. Try to guess what led up to each photo... the wife in her swimming cap, the sister standing out on the dock. I read the titles of their books. Wuthering Heights. The Waves. Breathe the potpourri in their bathrooms. Today, while looking out a bedroom window saying "Nice view", I wondered about the view from her room. I still can't picture it clearly. Where exactly, the window? I thought next to her pictures of Ophelia, but now I'm not so sure. What angle does the sun slant through the blinds at 10am? Continued in the comments section...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Anne Carson puts together several different prose and poetry styles all together to create something beautiful and amazing. It took me a while to adapt to poetry again after a bit of a hiatus, but Plainwater is so good I've started back into a poetry binge of proportions not seen in recent years. It's amazing and lovely and everyone should go read it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    My first encounter with Carson--completely life-changing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bri

    Loved it. I'm not going to pretend I have a complete grasp on the complexities of this collection yet (I feel like I need to spend years studying history, anthropology, mythology, language) but Anne Carson writes beautifully. Creative, clean. Her words find hollows in me and echo. My copy is littered with post its to mark certain lines, passages. Not a review, but a more personal (?) take here.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dorotea

    … It’s been 15 days since I finished this book and yet I don’t have the words to express how I feel towards this. The Anthropology of Water was extraordinary. The Brainsex Paintings were a great reminder of the time I used to study ancient Greek (and I might pick up the original Greek ones and perhaps comeback to Carson’s essay once more, hence why I’ll put this in my to-re-read list). But seriously, the Anthropology of Water was even more than extraordinary.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bryant

    Anne Carson is the Arachne of contemporary poets. A professor of classics and comparative literature at Michigan, Carson has an eight-legged brain that comfortably weaves sixth-century Greek lyric poetry, Renaissance painting, ancient Chinese wisdom literature, Kafka, and the confusion of her (writerly persona's) own love affairs. It is tempting to read the sections of this collection as separate entities. Indeed, the thematic and stylistic differences seem to encourage episodic reading. But suc Anne Carson is the Arachne of contemporary poets. A professor of classics and comparative literature at Michigan, Carson has an eight-legged brain that comfortably weaves sixth-century Greek lyric poetry, Renaissance painting, ancient Chinese wisdom literature, Kafka, and the confusion of her (writerly persona's) own love affairs. It is tempting to read the sections of this collection as separate entities. Indeed, the thematic and stylistic differences seem to encourage episodic reading. But such sporadic engagement runs counter to the flow of the titular plainwater. Carson's gift brings together the disparate and disjunctive as she sets down a variegated set of rocks in the same, illuminating stream.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    Classic and Capital. In the sense that it's the one that I read first. It's also the one I taught my students and the one they came in to talk about and they write like and the one that we were all reading when my cat died. That passage about Anna. And also the one with the blood oranges. What a comfort an essay is. Who would have known. Also it is the one I bought god so so long ago and it is ruined because I've read it that many times and others have also gotten their hands on it and I found a Classic and Capital. In the sense that it's the one that I read first. It's also the one I taught my students and the one they came in to talk about and they write like and the one that we were all reading when my cat died. That passage about Anna. And also the one with the blood oranges. What a comfort an essay is. Who would have known. Also it is the one I bought god so so long ago and it is ruined because I've read it that many times and others have also gotten their hands on it and I found a first edition at the library sale and it's great it's okay, it sort of stands in.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    i think i had to read "autobiography of red" and "beauty of the husband" to get to trust her enough to go through these shorter, sharper pieces, but this is my favorite anne carson so far. by "trust her," i mean understand that she's lying most of the time, but it's for my own good. i would love to learn to move through truth towards beauty the way she does. unfortunately i'm pretty much convinced that it's not something you can learn.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Neighbors

    This book is one big old hunk of gorgeous.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amal

    "what is the fear inside language? no accident of the body can make it stop burning" "it is a strange economy that shame sets up, isn't it? almost as strange as that of honor" god i love anne carson, i love that if this was any other writer i would find it unnecessarily pretentious but as i was saying to jay the fact is that she is just so far disattached from convention and the public eye that it becomes wondrous again. does that make sense. anyway what she does with metaphor/simile is remarkab "what is the fear inside language? no accident of the body can make it stop burning" "it is a strange economy that shame sets up, isn't it? almost as strange as that of honor" god i love anne carson, i love that if this was any other writer i would find it unnecessarily pretentious but as i was saying to jay the fact is that she is just so far disattached from convention and the public eye that it becomes wondrous again. does that make sense. anyway what she does with metaphor/simile is remarkable "moon like a piece of skin" "take two-measure words and press them together like lips of a wound" "as nail is parted from the flesh, i awoke and i was alone" ALSO in the anthropology of water i am obsessed with how like... she connects the everyday realities of Womanhood Is An Inescapable Prison with these huge, literary landscapes of truth... the references to lachine, quebec in the setting headings and "standing there he dried each pot. and said. turning. 'i like this dress.' (why?) 'because there are so many ways to take it off.' [...] what makes life life and not a simple story? jagged bits moving never still, all along the wall." GOD i love her

  14. 4 out of 5

    musa b-n

    I loved this book! I originally got it because I wanted to read "Anthropology of Water" (the final section of this book), but each section was so good. In my opinion, each section got progressively better, and "Anthropology" was the best. It took me a while because it's definitely not very clear writing and I have a short attention span, but it was really good to read, with some powerful parts.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    "How slow is the slow trance of wisdom, which the swimmer swims into." This book is well worth swimming into.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Del

    absolutely loved it, esp. part 1 (mimnermos) & part 5 (the anthropology of water). anne carson never disappoints me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I really did not enjoy this book as a whole. A few parts I did enjoy but they were sparse. The contents are a varied lot to say the least. Even the last part "The Anthropology of Water," which is over half of the book consists of 7 different, highly varied, pieces. The piece I enjoyed the most was "Kinds of Water: An Essay on the Road to Compostela" from "The Anthropology of Water." It is not an essay but a series of journal entries by someone on the pilgrimage to Compostela and has a lot of inte I really did not enjoy this book as a whole. A few parts I did enjoy but they were sparse. The contents are a varied lot to say the least. Even the last part "The Anthropology of Water," which is over half of the book consists of 7 different, highly varied, pieces. The piece I enjoyed the most was "Kinds of Water: An Essay on the Road to Compostela" from "The Anthropology of Water." It is not an essay but a series of journal entries by someone on the pilgrimage to Compostela and has a lot of interesting thoughts on pilgrims. "Pilgrims were people who figured things out as they walked. On the road you can think forward, you can think back, you can make a list to remember to tell those at home." "Pilgrims were people who took a surprisingly long time to cross the head of a pin." "Pilgrims were people who carried little. They carried it balanced on their heart." But my definite favorite due to its resonance for my own life is: "It is an open secret among pilgrims and other theoreticians of this traveling life that you become addicted to the horizon." I think Miss E would really like this section (read pp. 117-187).

  18. 4 out of 5

    S.D. Johnson

    One of the more amazing volumes of poetry I have read, Canadian or otherwise. It is an extremely long collection, 260 pages, and not for the hurried or lazy reader, but putting the time into it is rewarding. There are both free verse poems, including a long narrative Canicula di Anna, and prose poems, which are like philosophical picture postcard parables, and while centred around shared narratives and in many, the theme of water, they in no way seem fabricated or forced. The language maintains One of the more amazing volumes of poetry I have read, Canadian or otherwise. It is an extremely long collection, 260 pages, and not for the hurried or lazy reader, but putting the time into it is rewarding. There are both free verse poems, including a long narrative Canicula di Anna, and prose poems, which are like philosophical picture postcard parables, and while centred around shared narratives and in many, the theme of water, they in no way seem fabricated or forced. The language maintains its vigor throughout the collection. I don't want to write a long essay about it or anything, as it's late and I'm tired, and maybe I would be off the mark anyway. I find when something really bothers me about poetry it is easy to locate it and ideate on it, but when I find poetry to be stunning, my impulse is more simply to suggest that people read it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    the last essay in this collection, called "The Wishing Jewel: An Essay on Swimming by My Brother" is a short but stunningly sensual description of swimming, solitude and the dark realms of the imagination.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Anne Carson bewilders me. This collection like Decreation is wonderful, crazy, and perfect. I can't explain Ms. Carson, just read one of her interviews. This collection is wonderful. Read it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    This time I am reading the essays as well as the poetry.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Candy Sheridan

    Whether people are fans or critics of the late Sigmund Freud, the great philosopher, it is the uncanny, somewhat witty voice of Anne Carson that also is a deep thinker. Carson is a Canadian-born poet, writer, and translator of other works such as Glass, Irony and God, Autobiography of Red, Men in the Off Hours. It was mentioned to me prior to this review this could be a “tricky” review and that’s probably because, as a first-year literary student, her collection makes me feel stupid; not because Whether people are fans or critics of the late Sigmund Freud, the great philosopher, it is the uncanny, somewhat witty voice of Anne Carson that also is a deep thinker. Carson is a Canadian-born poet, writer, and translator of other works such as Glass, Irony and God, Autobiography of Red, Men in the Off Hours. It was mentioned to me prior to this review this could be a “tricky” review and that’s probably because, as a first-year literary student, her collection makes me feel stupid; not because I am stupid but because I don’t understand some of the theme. On the other hand, she revels in brilliance, even in the self-doubt, the shrewdness, and the sexy, sometimes even romantic way she comprises her literary writings. Le Bonheur deter Bien Aimee/Day after day I think of you as soon as I wake up. Someone has put cries of birds on the air like jewels. Carson does a terrific job of using tone throughout her collections. When I read thru Plain water, it reminded me of Carson’s writing mixed with Marlene Dietrich’s mood and style, the courage of Liesel Malinger in The Book Thief, and the brilliant writing of David Aberrant main character, Lisbeth Salander, in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because there is formidable challenges and Carson evokes fears in people, love, thoughtfulness, sexuality, death. In a supportive fashion, the writing seems to, at times, stress the importance of not taking things personal that happen in life and even she questions herself different ideas on thought patterns. To quote what I mean, “I don’t know that we really think any thoughts, we think connections between thoughts. That’s where the mind moves, that’s what’s new, and the thoughts themselves have probably been there in my head or lots of other people’s heads for a long time”, is one of Ms. Carson’s many quotes. In Fromista, when Carson says, “Animals who ride on top of one another do not have to see another’s face” was a form of imagery when comparing Cid taking care of his mother after rubbing her back. Setting is directly used when being in Alton, Indiana. “It is easy to get lost in Indiana, all the cornfields look alike and I am no help with the map. At 4:00 a.m., too tired to think about the tent, we fall out of the truck and sleep on the grass of the Holly Mount Holiness Church. “Baked Indiana clay is no silk pillow”, a form of metaphor used well in Celine Lake, Indiana Another example of this is, /Pillowing upward like heavily padded kimonos with terraces of green silk. Her quote, “Am I talking outside your emotional zip code? is an excellent t-shirt slogan, in my opinion. What a witty woman Ms. Carson is and she doesn’t believe that enlightenment is a place, almost like Freud believed in Darwinism and not a God. The irony in her voice seems like she would say something like, when it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile. During Camille Claudel’s thirty years in an asylum, it was a terrific and tactile style of her hands growing so much like two parts of someone else loaded onto her knees. The method of olfactory is simulated with setting / The swimmer prowls among the water lilies at the water’s edge. Each has a different smell (orange, honey, milk, rot, clove, coin) like people. Love: How is a pilgrim like a blacksmith? He bends iron. Love bends him. Haughty regarding sex: yes, there is a sense of duty and dread, feeling, then no feeling. There aren’t many moments in Plainwater where sex is appeasing, and I can appreciate the style. / Oh yes, he remembers she used to get little bruises on her hipbones from lovemaking/ Love makes fools, fools make love. It’s obvious in Lawrence, Kansas the character is a virgin when asking if she might bleed and the man she is about to approach states to her to lie down and tell him about it. Dimanche Eternel, a brand of cigar, used as ashtrays. Brilliant! Why? How? That’s the wit of why Carson does what she does and why it’s fabulous. This talented writer, today I find out, even was acknowledged on one of my favorite television shows, The L Word, for the character that I can’t stand, Jenny, speaks with my favorite character, Marina and states, “Those books practically changed my life.” How ironic she is speaking of Eros the Bittersweet, written by Carson. When the Father asks, “Are you going to put that chair back where it belongs or just leave it there looking like a uterus”? is only a drop in the bucket of some of the strange things written by Carson that are make absolutely no sense? What a creative mind this woman has! Here’s one that really makes a person think: /Smell of grass scraping the light. Sound of heating blue sky/Crickets a solid nerve wall. Carson uses much descriptive tone such as a million maggots in a silk hat, the comparison of a Chinese emperor making love to women with false penises. Such strange and unusual tone of writing. Four days ago, I had no idea how much integrity and recognition I was capable of putting into this review and after reviewing this collection of poems and essays, the thirst is there for more!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gwendolyn Jerris

    “Are you going to let your face distorted by warring desires pour down on us all through the meal or tidy yourself so we can at least enjoy our dessert?” and oh how she does always come at the right time, and i’ll never not love Anne Carson’s work. my adoration of the imaginative use of language. how she says, “you can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.” yes. lea “Are you going to let your face distorted by warring desires pour down on us all through the meal or tidy yourself so we can at least enjoy our dessert?” and oh how she does always come at the right time, and i’ll never not love Anne Carson’s work. my adoration of the imaginative use of language. how she says, “you can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.” yes. leave the mind. in this way it is at once a reminder to keep searching.. and a reminder that i don’t search for enlightenment or higher self or heaven, but the edge, creativity and freedom, duende.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Anne Carson is a genius. That sounds reductive, but I honestly cannot even begin to approach how to discuss her work intelligently or meaningfully in a way that adds anything new to it - because it's all already there in the work itself. I may not always know exactly what she's saying, but her words make me viscerally feel more than any other writer I know. Even when you have no idea where she's leading you at first, the endpoint is always worth taking the journey. So I'll leave it at that: Anne Anne Carson is a genius. That sounds reductive, but I honestly cannot even begin to approach how to discuss her work intelligently or meaningfully in a way that adds anything new to it - because it's all already there in the work itself. I may not always know exactly what she's saying, but her words make me viscerally feel more than any other writer I know. Even when you have no idea where she's leading you at first, the endpoint is always worth taking the journey. So I'll leave it at that: Anne Carson is a genius.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ana María

    "Well enlightenment is useless but I find interesting the distinction anthropologists make between an *emic* and an *etic* point of view. Emic has to do with the perspective of a member of the society itself and etic is the point of view of an outsider seeing the society in his own terms. Lovers--correct me if I'm wrong--insist on bringing the two perspectives together, a sort of double exposure. To draw into the very inside of my heart the limit that was supposed to mark it on the outside, your "Well enlightenment is useless but I find interesting the distinction anthropologists make between an *emic* and an *etic* point of view. Emic has to do with the perspective of a member of the society itself and etic is the point of view of an outsider seeing the society in his own terms. Lovers--correct me if I'm wrong--insist on bringing the two perspectives together, a sort of double exposure. To draw into the very inside of my heart the limit that was supposed to mark it on the outside, your strangeness."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Isa C.

    “The beloved's innocence brutalizes the lover. As the singing of a mad person behind you on the train enrages you, its beautiful animal-like teeth shining amid black planes of paint. As Helen enrages history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Delgado

    Anne Carson masterfully erases the thin line between poetry and essay. The self experiences its becoming with the most trivial aspects of life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janie

    lemme just prostrate myself real quick thx Anne

  29. 5 out of 5

    Salvatore

    Always a delight

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Anthropology of Water was amazing

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