More than a name to conjure with, Anne Carson remains—13 years after her breakout success, Autobiography of Red—a name to pick a fight over. Mention her in conversation and battle-lines get drawn. Jason Guriel's provocative new review explores some of what bugs him about the Canadian classicist's verse, namely the way she's always grabbing some new form, but the content never changes
Like other recent Carson productions, Red Doc, the sequel to 1998’s verse novel Autobiography of Red, is a feast for first glances. But when I resolve finally to turn away from surface pleasures and reckon with the words, I encounter nothing less than the voice of, well, Anne Carson!—learned, deadpan, comma-less, and frequently carried away by tangent....A consistent, distinctive voice isn’t usually a problem. (Most poets should be so lucky.) But I’m not very far into Red Doc> when I find myself wondering why a voice so unperturbed by its latest packaging—long and short lines, rival columns, the screenplay, the essay, opera—needed such packaging in the first place. It’s hard to think of another more restless poet, whose adventures in form and genre, from book to book, have left less of a mark on her sensibility. Is it that the medium isn’t so much the message as the marketing strategy? Carson poems, I’m convinced, will soon come packaged in a Cornell box—but they will sound like Carson.