Anne Carson is a crossover artist. In addition to being a prizewinning poet, she is an accomplished essayist and has a deep understanding of drama and storytelling. The subtitles of her books show her determination to think across genres and even art forms. Autobiography of Red, her work based on poetry fragments by ancient Greek poet Stesichoros, is presented as “a novel in verse,” while The Beauty of the Husband, her meditations on the relation of beauty and truth in the poetry of John Keats, becomes “a fictional essay,” and the poems that make up this essay are conceived as verbal parallels to the tango in music and dance. Carson writes essays in the word’s original sense of “attempts” or “trials.” Her essays grow out of a deep scholarly knowledge of classical texts, especially in Greek, but show a wide eclectic knowledge of world literature and an eye for resemblances across centuries and between languages.
Anne Carson first found a wide audience with “Kinds of Water,” an essay on the pilgrimage route to Compostella in northern Spain. Written as a pilgrim’s diary and presenting a series of epigrammatic reflections on pilgrimage as a metaphor, the essay was chosen for inclusion by essayist Annie Dillard in The Best American Essays of 1988 (1988), edited by Dillard and Robert Atwan. Over the next decade, Carson contributed many poems to journals. After they were collected in her first major book of poetry, Glass, Irony, and God, Carson won many awards, including a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1996, the Pushcart Prize in 1997, the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2001 for Men in the Off Hours, and both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry in 2001 for The Beauty of the Husband. She also won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998 and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000.
Burt, Stephen. “Anne Carson: Poetry Without Borders.” Publishers Weekly 247 (April 3, 2000): 56-57. Burt takes a close look at Carson’s sense of purpose as a writer, saying she likes to stay intellectually curious and is constantly looking for new challenges.
Gannon, Mark. “Anne Carson: Beauty Prefers an Edge.” Poets and Writers Magazine, March/April, 2001, 26-33. A revealing interview, in which Carson addresses her love for “dead” languages and how poetry keeps her focused.
Halliday, Mark. “Carson: Mind and Heart.” Chicago Review 45, no. 2 (1999): 121-127. In his review of Carson’s ambitious “novel in verse” Autobiography in Red, Halliday comes away from the reading both wary and hopeful of Carson’s erudition and bold approach to poetry.
Marks, Steven. “Anne Carson.” In American Poets Since World War II, edited by Joseph Conte. Vol. 193 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. A richly detailed and insightful overview of Carson’s career as a poet and scholar.
Rehak, Melanie. “Things Fall Together.” The New York Times Magazine, March 26, 2000, 34-39. This instructive article delves into how Carson approaches life and writing: She refuses to be bored, refuses to isolate herself from the serendipitous connections that can happen at a moment’s notice.