cover image Wrong Norma

Wrong Norma

Anne Carson. New Directions, $18.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3034-6

Carson’s genre-bending latest (after H of H Playbook) features the time-splicing mythology readers have come to expect of her fiercely intelligent, mordantly articulate mind. Comprised largely of prose poems that are “cold but not shocking,” as Carson writes of the water, one of the collection’s touchstone elements, these poems revisit classical myth through contemporary idiom, performing “the ten thousand adjustments of vivid/ action.” Carson’s language is hyper-alert, her range of material and allusions making her lines unpredictable, her speaker a guide to “Sex divorce fighting longing realness pretending!” In “An Evening with Joseph Conrad,” she writes: “Once I was invited to a christening in a country far away. It was June. On the drive the weather closed in, grey and vague, typical summer weather for that region. The ceremony was in a tiny white church. Everyone sat packed like teeth. Short glorious off-key songs were sung by a ten-year-old girl. Short glorious off-key songs were sung.” Her use of hybrid forms and her quest for both surprise and accuracy leaves one gratefully wrong-footed, immersed in vignettes about freedom, time, and the search for “plain words” within a world seemingly designed to obstruct them. These are original poems from a poet who pushes and renews the medium. (Feb.)