Elaborately and often successfully innovative, this sixth book by classical scholar and poet Carson proves that poets love
to play not only with the textures and meanings of words, but also with syntax, sound, diction, line, punctuation, form, and even
genre. Part prose, yet mostly poetry, this is an extravagant collection of treatises and experiments, generally on the theme of
metaphor (which Carson defines in a poem ironically entitled “Essay on What I Think about Most”). Creating metaphor (i.e.,
saying a thing is something it's not) “causes the mind to experience itself / in the act of making a mistake.” Yet metaphors
“teach the mind / to enjoy error / and to learn / from the juxtaposition of WHAT IS and WHAT IS NOT the case.” Such
juxtapositions (and not merely verbal ones) fascinate Carson. She often unites incongruous figures or concepts—Virginia Woolf
and Thucydides, Edward Hopper and St. Augustine, television and Tolstoy—in order to force from each some hidden nonpareil.
Like Sappho (whom she scrutinizes in “Dirt and Desire”), Carson “plays havoc with boundaries and defies the rules.” Her
diction is inventive (“whitely Septembered,” “Praguing the eye”), her syntax often unusual (“Now the mind isn't she an avid
previous hobo?”). Poems packed with one-word lines and sentences with abandoned punctuation force the reader to confront the
extraordinariness of words themselves, though Carson is interested in more than just renewing the power of language. However
experimental her means, she produces powerful literature marked by humor, sensuality, spirituality, and poignancy.
Complex, yet surprisingly and enormously readable.