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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Etter

Anne Carson's Men in the Off Hours (Cape, 2000)

I tend to devote these posts of favourite passages from contemporary poetry collections to poets I suppose underknown--which is to say that for all Carson's reputation and celebrity, I want to persuade ever more people to read her work. If you've noticed the chronological succession of these posts, they result from my running a reading group on her work in which a group of women poets meet in Bath every few months or so to discuss the next book. Today this is the book! Here are some favourite passages:

Here lies the refugee breather

Who drank a bowl of elsewhere.

end of 'Epitaph: Zion'

A fell dark pink February heaven


Pulling the clouds home, balancing massacre

On the rips.

end of 'Epitaph: Oedipus' Nap'

...what we are engaged in when we do poetry is error,

the willful creation of error,

the deliberate break and complication of mistakes

out of which may arise


from 'Essay on What I Think About Most'

Coldness coming paring down from the moonbone in the sky.

from 'Father's Old Blue Cardigan'

A gradual dazzle


the ceiling

Gives me that




As hours





Down my afternoon.

from 'Room in Brooklyn'

Desire, the trees are rags. Desire, streaks of it

scalding the fog.


In sex (he told her) the mind evaporates and suddenly

the body is there,

just the body with its reaches.


But the day with its doors, accusations, tomatoes

with its rosemilk breasts of girls,

rain, cold, mad people and heartburn--

wore him to the nub.

from 'TV Men: Tolstoy'


thrown off by a soul as it cools.

from 'TV Men: Akhmatova (Treatment for a Script)'

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