(Poetry for Students)

Canadian poet Anne Carson first published “New Rule” in the United States in her 2000 collection, Men in the Off Hours. Like many of her other works, this book features juxtapositions of modern people and situations with people and situations from history and ancient literature. While “New Rule” differs from this pattern, which is one of Carson’s hallmarks, the poem contains other aspects commonly associated with Carson’s work, including an unusual structure and imagery that is challenging to decipher. The poem takes place on an ice-covered, New Year’s morning in an unspecified location, when the poet uses the presence of a squirrel, with whom she has an imaginary conversation, to reflect upon a failed relationship from her past. The coldness of the setting reflects the coldness of the poet’s lost love. New Year’s, however, suggests a new beginning. Although much of Carson’s work appears to have autobiographical elements in it, and critics have noted Carson’s own failed relationships, there is no guarantee that Carson is speaking about herself. As a result, it is difficult to determine Carson’s true inspiration for the poem, except to say that her poem explores the pain of breakups. Carson should not be confused with Anne Regina Carson, an American writer. Both were born in 1950, and the former has even lived and worked in the United States, so it is easy to make this mistake. A current copy of “New Rule” can be found in the paperback version of Men in the Off Hours, which was published by Vintage Contemporaries in 2001.