The Sunday Edition

The catastrophic poetry of Anne Carson

The catastrophic poetry of Anne Carson: The renowned Canadian poet talks to Michael about her love of Greek ("the morning of language"), her fascination with grammar and syntax ("the secrets of life are embedded in grammar"), and why she calls writing, "an act of catastrophe." Anne Carson's newest work is a collection of 22 chapbooks called "Float".

The renowned Canadian poet talks to Michael about her love of Greek ("the morning of language"), her fascinati

Anne Carson is a Canadian poet. (Random House of Canada)

Anne Carson's books come with a simple one-line biography: "Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living." What that doesn't tell you is that she has a towering global reputation as a poet, translator, and classics scholar. 

Carson has won a MacArthur "genius" grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Pushcart Prize for Poetry, and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her work combines classical mythology with startling reflections on loss, monstrosity, and loneliness — reinventing ancient wounds for a modern age. 

[My writing is] an attempt at catastrophe. I think most of it ends up in the middle ground. Most of us, all the time, end up in that middle ground where we're kind of making do with cliches until they run out and then patching in a few original thoughts to try to feel alive.- Anne Carson

When you read her work, it is easy to feel as if you are stumbling about in the fog on another planet. But out of the fog, phrases can strike like lightning. 

Her writing is dense, irreverent, and packed with references to Sappho, Simone Weil and Emily Bronte. Her fascination with grammar and syntax is legendary. 

Many of Carson's books are artifacts in themselves. "Nox," which she wrote after the death of her brother, comes in a box and opens up like an accordion. Her newest work, "Float," is a collection of 22 chapbooks, which have no fixed order and are meant to be read "freefall."

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Anne Carson. 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.