Sunday, January 29, 2017

Anne Carson's Short Talks

Short Talks / Anne Carson
London: Brick Books, 2015, c1992.
75 p.

Another in Brick Books' reissuing of classics from their backlist, done in honour of their 40th year of existence, this was the first volume of the collection.

It's fabulous.

Anne Carson is a classics professor and a former McArthur Fellow. She's won many awards for her work, but I must admit that personally I felt that this volume was the one I've most easily understood, absorbed, and enjoyed.

It's a collection of small poems in the form of paragraphs, ranging from a couple of sentences to nearly a full page. They are reflections on various themes, some funny, some wistful, all clever. Her study of classics comes through in many of the poems; intelligence and wit shine in this book.

A few of them reminded me of Sei Shonagon, and by extension also Suzanne Buffam's recent A Pillow Book. The resemblance is clear in pieces like "A Short Talk on Major and Minor", which starts with a brief list of each (in sentence format). There is also a certain similarity in the attention to daily life & the minutiae of experience between these two books.

There are other poems that are short talks on a topic which, as it turns out, the poem is really not about at all. And some of the very shortest pieces turned out to be favourites. I think the one that struck me most was "A Short Talk on the Sensation of Aeroplane Takeoff" -- it's a sentence long, but what a sentence! Joyful and unexpected. 

Another great reissue from Brick Books, I enjoyed musing over this one slowly and uncovering some new ways of perceiving the world. Recommended.

Listen to Anne reading a few of these pieces here:


  1. This does sound like an intelligent and engaging collection. I enjoyed listening to the short talk.

    1. I heard her in person once and it was a great experience. This collection is rather charming.

  2. I loved this book. Intelligent, lively, and beautiful...


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