Plainwater: Essays and Poetry

Plainwater: Essays and Poetry

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.

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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. 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. 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)? The lake lies like a silver tongue in a black mouth." Let me stare at that line again. In its way, the theme of this lovely book.

Like two particles in a complex sentence we sit side by side moving forward, eyes on the road. Body and shadow comfort one another, says ancient Chinese wisdom.

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". 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)"... 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 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. 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"... 118) In the "Introduction to Kinds of Water", the poet transitions into the narrative of her aging and ailing father. Something I liked about the second part, the poet's specification of the supplies she packed for her pilgrimage... 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... 124) The typical entry records the poet's observations of the city, often focusing on water in one form or another. Finally, every entry ends with a comment about pilgrims... 154) Entries that don't end with a comment about pilgrims often contain a comment somewhere within the text... 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. The seventh part, like the third and fifth parts, takes the form of journal entries.

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. 12.31.02 The Year of the Horse Im 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. Across the table, Dawn declares 2003 the year of the horse. 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. The year of the horse. 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? You're probably tired of me, and you haven't even gotten to the good part of the book yet. I mean, you were Miss Anne Carson just ten seconds ago, I swear. I: I don't want to know. D: No. Hey, did you read that Plainwater book? 01.16.03 Properties of Glass An empty house is indefinite as a horse. Is that a house without walls or a house without windows? I wanted so much to live there, but I didnt know why. How can a horse sleep standing up? How can a horse sleep standing up? She's fixed to the pages curled in her left hand. Anne turns another page. There are pictures of Ophelia on the wall next to polaroids of her mother in a blue scarf. Carson's use of white space, adjectives, no. About your review of my book... Maybe you shouldn't have been the one doing this interview. J: Well, if we start talking more often, you know, go out on a few dates and stuff, things could get out of hand. A: Yes, this person was not in my book. I know this, but I'm here anyway. I know this, but I'm here anyway. She works at a pet care place down the street. One of the dogs really likes me. I'll let you know soon. You know German? Hey, do you know a German word that sounds like "function lust". It means something like "joy in doing"... 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. Today, while looking out a bedroom window saying "Nice view", I wondered about the view from her room. I thought next to her pictures of Ophelia, but now I'm not so sure.

I rowed upon the surface of the Moon and there was no wind, there were no moments, for the Moon is as empty as the inside of an eye and not even the sound of a shadow falling falls there." "'I suppose you do love me, in your way,' I said to him one night close to dawn when we lay on the narrow bed. Jagged bits moving never still, all along the wall." "My brother once showed me a piece of quartz that contained, he said, some trapped water older than all the seas in our world. Old, beautiful shadows are wavering steadily across it. The swimmer thinks about symmetries, then rotates himself to swim on his back staring at the sky. High above him he can feel the clouds watching his back, waiting for him to fall toward them." "High above him at the top of the sky, blood clouds are gathering like a wound behind flesh." "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?"

Her words find hollows in me and echo.

Carson (with background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art) blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. Her awards and honors include the Lannan Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Griffin Trust Award for Excellence in Poetry, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

  • English

  • Poetry

  • Rating: 4.29
  • Pages: 260
  • Publish Date: March 28th 2000 by Vintage
  • Isbn10: 0375708421
  • Isbn13: 9780375708428