Critical Overview

(Poetry for Students)

In the short time since Carson’s Men in the Off Hours has been published, most critics have praised it. In a review of the book for Booklist, Donna Seaman calls Carson, “brilliant and irrepressible.” In his review of the book for The Kenyon Review, David Baker calls Carson “Canada’s most progressive poet in many decades. She is like a performance artist on paper, with that kind of adventurous chutzpah, as hyper as she is brilliant.” Ann K. van Buren of Library Journal calls the book “a cryptic narrative written in a flourishing language that invites the reader to start decoding.” This cryptic quality, which requires Carson’s readers to dig into her poems to find their meaning, is one of the poet’s many hallmarks. Steven Marks says, in his entry on Carson for the Dictionary of Literary Biography: “Movement toward meaning that partially reveals and then hides itself is the intellectual, and visceral, pleasure of her poetry.” Ultimately, most reviewers, like Barbara Hoffert in Library Journal, compare this book to Carson’s other works. Hoffert says, the book “exhibits the same intellectual rigor, polished verse, and depth of knowledge of her previous efforts.” Likewise, the Publishers Weekly reviewer says: “Carson’s demanding style has been among the decade’s most intriguing: critics with little else in common look forward to her inimitable and argumentative poems.”

When most critics speak about Carson’s challenging style and cryptic qualities, they are...

(The entire section is 635 words.)