Anne Carson: I think the only thing I know about writing is: start in the middle. Wherever you're doing, start in the middle. Starting at the beginning is just ridiculously frightening. And of course, the end, you know, will be there when you arrive.

Robert Currie: You know, I was going to say, and this is inside information, I don't think you have ritual, but you have the luxury of having space, where you always have the writing available. You have a studio, not here [in Iceland], but in America, which has a desk for each of those practices: you have your drawing desk, your writing desk, and your translating desk.

AC: That’s the topography.

RC: Yeah, you've made a topography in which the ideas can happen instead of —

AC: I think it's important to have a topography, where you have a desk or a table or something where you can leave the work out. If you work on the dining room table, and you have to put it away every time the family wants to have supper, you’ll just go mad. You’ll lose your orientation. You have to be able to leave it out somewhere.


AC: Oh, Short Talks is a book I wrote that exists as a bunch of little essays. When I made it first, it was a bunch of drawings with titles, and I thought the titles were interesting, yes, but the drawings were more interesting to me. When I showed them to other people, they thought that the drawings were kind of irrelevant, and the titles were kind of neat. So, I began to expand the titles and the titles became talks, and the talks became a book of talks. The drawings were lost, which always made me sad, but I mean, they weren't that good, I had to agree. It would have been a kind of a dopey book. Anyway, that was the direction of my thinking.

Anne Carson

Visible Invisibles

Money is something visible and invisible at the same time. A “real abstraction,” in Marx’s terms. You can hold a coin in your hand and yet not touch its value. That which makes this thing “money”is not what you see.


Cf. Marx: “Money is the external common medium and faculty for transforming appearance into reality and reality into appearance”: Struik (1964), 153


Simonides says that painting is silent poetry while poetry is painting that talks,” Plutarch tells us.


Visible and invisible lock together in a fact composed of their difference.


The meaning of Simonides’ poem is something that happens between the two worlds of waking and sleeping.


Poetic language has this capacity to uncover a world of metaphor that lies inside all our ordinary speech like a mind asleep.


Without poetry these two worlds would remain unconscious of one another. As Heraklitos says, “All we see awake is death, all we see asleep is sleep.”42 At the vanishing point of metaphor we may catch a glimpse of their differentiation.

Appearance constrains even truth [Simonides]


It is in fact upon the world of things needing to be uncovered that the world of merely visible things keeps exerting its pressure.


Where upon Simonides said, “The longer I ponder the matter, the more obscure it seems to me.”52


Simonides’ claim is more radical, for it comprehends the profoundest of poetic experiences: that of not seeing what is there.


Neither of them finds their way to a satisfactory conversation but both insist on standing in the gap where it should take place, pointing to the lacunae where it burned.


Spirit is not in the I but between I and Thou. (Buber)


[Celan] describes the poet’s method [...] with the word “attention” (Aufmerksamkeit) and defines attention as “the natural prayer of the soul.”6


The properly invisible nature of otherness guarantees the mystery of our encounters with it, pulls out of us the act of attention that may bring “some difference” to light here. Danaë prays for difference—we all do—without knowing what is entailed in that. When our grief desert sus, where does it go and who will we be without it? These are questions that remain in the empty place where and lie side by side, strangeness by strangeness, exerting on one another a terrible and sleepless pressure that only the poet attends.


Anne Carson

Anne Carson: I think the only thing I know about writing is: start in the middle. Wherever you're doing, start in the middle. Starting at the beginning is just ridiculously frightening. And of course, the end, you know, will be there when you arrive.

Robert Currie: You know, I was going to say, and this is inside information, I don't think you have ritual, but you have the luxury of having space, where you always have the writing available. You have a studio, not here [in Iceland], but in America, which has a desk for each of those practices: you have your drawing desk, your writing desk, and your translating desk.

AC: That’s the topography.

RC: Yeah, you've made a topography in which the ideas can happen instead of —

AC: I think it's important to have a topography, where you have a desk or a table or something where you can leave the work out. If you work on the dining room table, and you have to put it away every time the family wants to have supper, you’ll just go mad. You’ll lose your orientation. You have to be able to leave it out somewhere.


AC: Oh, Short Talks is a book I wrote that exists as a bunch of little essays. When I made it first, it was a bunch of drawings with titles, and I thought the titles were interesting, yes, but the drawings were more interesting to me. When I showed them to other people, they thought that the drawings were kind of irrelevant, and the titles were kind of neat. So, I began to expand the titles and the titles became talks, and the talks became a book of talks. The drawings were lost, which always made me sad, but I mean, they weren't that good, I had to agree. It would have been a kind of a dopey book. Anyway, that was the direction of my thinking.

Anne Carson
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