Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Haven't I Read Anything By Anne Carson Til Now?



Audubon


Audubon perfected a new way of drawing birds that he called his.
On the bottom of each watercolor he put "drawn from nature"
which meant he shot the birds

and took them home to stuff and paint them.
Because he hated the unvarying shapes
of traditional taxidermy

he built flexible armatures of bent wire and wood
on which he arranged bird skin and feathers--
or sometimes

whole eviscerated birds--
in animated poses.
Not only his wiring but his lighting was new.

Audubon colors dive in through your retina
like a searchlight
roving shadowlessly up and down the brain

until you turn away.
And you do turn away.
There is nothing to see.

You can look at these true shapes all day and not see the bird.
Audubon understands light as an absence of darkness,
truth as an absence of unknowing.

It is the opposite of a peaceful day in Hokusai.
Imagine if Hokusai had shot and wired 219 lions
and then forbade his brush to paint shadow.

"We are what we make ourselves," Audubon told his wife
when they were courting.
In the salons of Paris and Edinburgh

where he went to sell his new style
this Haitian-born Frenchman
lit himself

as a noble rustic American
wired in the cloudless poses of the Great Naturalist.
They loved him

for the "frenzy and ecstasy"
of true American facts, especially
in the second (more affordable) octavo edition (Birds of America, 1844).

[From Men in Off Hours.]


(Critics seem to object that Carson's poems read like essays, which are what she used to write. OK. But as an admirer of Brecht and Pound and Larkin, I have to ask: Why shouldn't the essay aspire to the condition of a poem, and vice versa?)

3 comments:

  1. Gorgeous poem; obnoxious review. Seriously, kvetching about the requirements to get into a literary dictionary? Really? Yeah, Carson decided to try poetry for the glory. Sure.

    Of course, as a fan of streamlined essays and short short stories as well as prose poems, whatever they are, I'm inclined to agree with you. And why not poems where you learn something?

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  2. there is another version about Audubon, isn't there?

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