Anne Carson, renowned poet, translator and classicist, will never fail to disappoint when it comes to her unique combination of tradition and experimentation. Her newest work, Float, is a small collection of 22 chapbooks contained in a clear plastic slipcase. Like her 2010 release Nox this book is as much an artifact or beautiful, artistic object as it is a book. In interviews Carson has made it clear that it does not matter the order in which you read the separate books that span anywhere from a few pages to twenty or so, as they are an amalgam of groups of poems, lectures, performance pieces, translations and essays both experimental and semi-traditional.

In this offering, more than any other to date, we see the true depth of Carson as both an inventive thinker and deeply gifted lyrical poet. Float touches every register with clarity and wit; as the chapbooks undulate between the serious and silly, the intellectual and the sentimental. But, as Carson admits, we, as humans, crave stories and sometimes this want for narrative can distract from the appreciation of the art of objects, words and emotions. So, when reading this book, or collection of works compiled together, it is best to move forward at one’s own pace with a careful eye towards the overall thrust of the work.

It’s somewhat difficult to catalogue the extent of the contents of book, but works fall into several different categories—for lack of a better word. First, there are the more poetic chapbooks; ones that are and feel more like a traditional book of poems, albeit small ones at times. Both “Stacks” and “Zeusbits” are more traditional chapbooks. Each is a collection of short-ish poems and each is lyrical and experimental in equal measure. As well, “Powerless Structures” is a chapbook long, sentimental lyric on death. Another next category or mode some of the chapbooks fit into take on a more experimental or conceptual bent. “Maintenance” and “108 (Flotage)” fill the register of playful experiments in their construction: each being composed of lists. As well, the list poem “Eras of Yves Klein” takes on an ironic, silly feeling with lines likes: “The Era of Ego Clashes with One’s Friends” and “The Era of Scathing Reviews in New York.”

Where this collection really soars is in Carson’s mesmerizing and jolting essays. Again, they run the gamut between heavy intellectualism and a playful skirting of our expectations of what essays should be or look like. Two in particular are strikingly brilliant. First, “Uncle Falling” is a play on the essay and a nod to her classicist background with its intertwining chorus. But the real meat of this collection when it comes to essays is “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent.” First performed in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland in 2012, the essay is a meditation on the foibles of translation. Carson herself is an experienced translator (having revived Sappho in her 2003 book If Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho) and this essay traces a line that connects the difficulty of making meaning out of forms of “silence.” It winds from a discussion of Sappho, to Hölderlin’s laughable translation of Antigone, to the connection between cliché and the color purple.

Though it may not suit the casual reader, Float should be read by anyone who has any vague interest in translation, art, beauty, meaning and the possibilities of a poetic work. Carson, once again, has given us something that can only come from her radiant creativity and illustrious intellect. Float is a book of books, and no matter how you read them, or in what order, you will be left hypnotized by its daring scope and peerless creativity.

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