The Bucknellian

The Weis Center hosts renowned poet Anne Carson

Avery Blasko, Staff Writer

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The Weis Center for the Performing Arts hosted poet and translator Anne Carson on Nov. 13. Carson and her collaborator Robert Currie performed Carson’s piece “A Lecture on the History of Skywriting,” which was originally performed at the New York Live Ideas Festival and again at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Carson also gave a Q&A on “Antigonick,” and translations on Nov. 14 that were moderated by Professor of English G.C. Waldrep and Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Stephanie Larson.

Waldrep introduced Carson on Nov. 13, calling her “one of the world’s best living poets in the English language.” Carson is best known for her translations of “Antigonick,” which the entire Class of 2022 was required to read this past summer, and “Antigone,” which was the Department of Theatre and Dance’s production this fall. Carson is also known for her translation of “An Oresteia,” and works originally by Sappho and Euripides.

Along with translating written work, Carson writes her own works and has had 20 of her own books published as of 2016. Her writings mix prose, poetry, and essay, along with fiction and nonfiction. Her first book, “Eros the Bittersweet,” was published in 1986 and was named one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time by the Modern Library. The book examines the concept of “Eros” in Greek mythology by tracing the character through his poetic representations.

Carson has been influenced by other mythologies in her writing as well. One of her better known pieces, a verse novel entitled “Autobiography of Red,” is loosely based on the story of the 10th labor of Heracles, the Greek hero. The poem she performed on the night of Nov. 13 also includes touches of her own personal experiences, as well as other mythological stories.

Carson’s performance of “A Lecture on the History of Skywriting” was described by Larson as a “performance art, disguised as a ‘lecture,’ in which she masterfully juxtaposed themes of time, loneliness, death, war, race and existentialism, and as often in her work, she managed to weave in some Greek mythology for good measure,” Larson said.

The poem is spoken from the perspective of the sky, narrated by Carson. The poem takes place “before the creation of creation” and is meant to be a diary written by the sky, even though, Carson said, “I can’t call it that because they had not existed yet, but they had the same purpose, to prevent the moments of my own life from being allowed to waste away like a tap left running.”   

There was a constant change from complete fantasy to reality, as well as allusions to other cultures and themes within the performance. The sky explains what it did during every day of the week, following the Biblical model of Genesis, working for six days and then resting on the seventh. Greek mythology is also tied in, as at one point the sky takes the role of Zeus and speaks about his relationship with Alcmene, the mother of Heracles. Just when the lecture is stretching too far from reality, the sky (still as Zeus) speaks on how difficult it is to watch his son, Heracles, walk into his own death.

“I have been enchanted with Anne Carson’s work ever since reading ‘Eros the Bittersweet’ years ago as a graduate student. Experiencing her genius in person was simply exquisite,” Professor of Religion Carol White said.

“I would say that a visit by a poet of such renown is a rare event in Bucknell history. Carson’s was a world-class performance of a brilliant star in the world of artistic production. We were so lucky to have had the opportunity to hear her,” Larson said.

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The Weis Center hosts renowned poet Anne Carson