Monday, October 19, 2009

when anne carson comes to town

Anne Carson visited our campus via the Joseph Warren Beach Lecture series. The website blurb explains it best:

50 Year Anniversary of the Joseph Warren Beach Lectures in Literature
Sunday October 18, 2009 4:00 pm
Coffman Union Theater

Parking: See map. Plan your trip.
Admission: Free and open to the University of Minnesota community and the general public. No advanced tickets necessary.

Nothing seems more appropriate to celebrate the rich 50 year history of the Joseph Warren Beach Lectures in Literature than bringing Anne Carson to the the University of Minnesota campus. Since 1959, when the series was created to honor former English professor and chair Joseph Warren Beach, the endowment has allowed Twin Cities audiences to hear from some of the brightest luminaries in literature, from critics such as Lionel Trilling, Edward Said, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, to writers such as Mary McCarthy, Robert Pinsky, and Tony Kushner. True to both sides of this tradition, Carson is a poet and scholar, translator and essayist, Classicist and experimental artist, often within the same frame.

Recently, Carson has exhilarated East Coast audiences with live mash-ups of poetry, dance, and performance art, drawing fans such as Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. This fall Carson, along with two of Merce Cunningham’s dancers, ventures west to bring a couple of her best-known such collaborations to the Twin Cities. With dancers Rashaun Mitchell (who choreographed) and Marcie Munnerlyn accompanying, Carson will read portions of her translated Sappho text further fragmented through the use of three other readers. Of this piece, titled “Bracko,” the New York Times wrote: “Sappho’s lush, often cruel observations on love were mirrored but not mimed in Mr. Mitchell’s choreography,” leaving the critic wanting more “such complicated marriages of movement and text.”

Originally created for a Harvard conference, “Possessive Used as Drink (Me): A Lecture in the Form of 15 Sonnets” incorporates Carson reading, a projection of dancers with an audio track, and Mitchell and Munnerlyn. For Carson, noted Alex Dimitrov of Poets & Writers, “Poetry does not occur only on the page, nor the stage—it occurs as words flit through the mind and the body, as they engage with other bodies, dancing bodies, and the objects around them.”

Carson’s many publications include her latest translation An Oresteia: Agamemnon by Aiskhylos; Elektra by Sophokles; Orestes by Euripides (Faber & Faber, 2009). Her written works, too, are complicated marriages of poetry and criticism, translation and fiction. She has won the Lannan Literary Award, the Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. A Canadian, Carson is currently Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at New York University.

The Joseph Warren Beach Endowment is honored to welcome Anne Carson to the University of Minnesota for the 50th anniversary of the Joseph Warren Beach Lectures in Literature.

For more information, visit the Joseph Warren Beach Lectures in Literature section of this site or call 612-625-3363.

Choreographer and dancer Mitchell said during the Q&A that he was compelled by the bracket, considering things like the ties that bind us, using the silver ropes to take it away from something violent, and creating brackets with rope to interact with.

Anne Carson explained that "each time it finds its rhythm" when speaking of this complicated collaboration--not only were the Sappho poems translated (relationship between ancient and contemporary poet) but those poems were then restructured with partner Bob Currie (who spoke of the multiple voices by saying, "We do a lot by chance," and as the form becomes more complex, you have to simplify the message--focusing on the combination existing on the stage), then there is relationship of poet with dance, and finally, Carson also brings in members of the university community (in this case, the former department chair of the English Literature program, Paula Rabinowitz and a first year MFA candidate, Sarah Fox).

Maria Damon (pictured in the second to last photo with Paula Rabinowitz and the woman we can thank for all these events running so beautifully, Terri Sutton) asked a question regarding the most interesting question asked at a Q&A, which allowed Carson to speak of the moment, which is so important to pieces such as these, and how "questions come out of the ligature of the room." Bob Currie cited an instance in the 1980s after seeing a ghost-themed piece of John Cage's, where, given blank stares from the audience, he offered to do another piece, at which point the hands went up, and Currie spoke of how a ten-year-old asked the question, "Mr. Cage, do ghosts ever get lonely?" to which Cage replied, "Your question is too beautiful to answer, and we'll end there."

This wasn't, of course, the end of their Q&A--a few more questions revealed that the first piece, "Possessive Used as Drink (Me): A Lecture in the Form of 15 Sonnets" came from a request for a lecture on pronouns for Harvard, the Sappho star map worked by including yellow blobs which turned out to be from cloud formations over NYC, the stars helped choose how to plan the language, and generally, there was inclusion of a DVD that ended with 183 brackets bursting onto the screen in place of stars.

We also learned Carson sometimes includes musicians--and she was asked if there was an intentionality of pitches in voices when missing that music--to which Carson spoke of including a sound sculptor and having an attunement with the emotion of a particular sonnet which also was reflected in pace and cadence--they could stretch language to match better with the dance if need be.

Meryl also has a post regarding tonight's reading; please do go check it out.

1 comment:

Jessie Carty said...

sounds like a fascinating event :)