OFF THE GLASS: ANNE CARSON V. MAURA STANTON

Maura Stanton: both her parents fought in WW II; she was admitted to Iowa’s MFA program in poetry and fiction.

Anne Carson, the whizz from Canada, tries to advance out of the first round as a no. 5 seed against 12th seed Maura Stanton of Illinois, Yale Younger winner, and wife to Richard Cecil, also in this tourney, and winner in his first round play.

Both use the glass in fascinating ways.

My Religion

My religion makes no sense
and does not help me
therefore I pursue it.

When we see
how simple it would have been
we will thrash ourselves.

I had a vision
of all the people in the world
who are searching for God

massed in a room
on one side
of a petition

that looks
from the other side
(God’s side)

transparent
but we are blind.
Our gestures are blind.

Our blind gestures continue
for some time until finally
from somewhere

on the other side of the partition there we are
looking back at them.
it is far too late.

We see how brokenly
how warily
how ill

our blind gestures
parodied
what God really wanted

(some simple thing).
The thought of it
(this simple thing)

is like a creature
let loose in a room
and battering

to get out.
It batters my soul
with its rifle butt.

–Anne Carson

MARLA MUSE: Rifle butt? Ouch!

A little anti-war commentary thrown in from Carson at the last minute? It can’t hurt, I suppose.  I’m sure all our readers recognized Carson’s style.  Now let’s look at Stanton’s:

The Veiled Lady

In the 19th Century, clever mediums
Would rap a table, making the dead speak.
Ghostly hands would hover in the air,
Heads would appear, Caesar, Napolean.
Sometimes the whole immaterial body
Of someone’s beloved, dead daughter or sister
Glided through a room allowing swords
To pass though it. Once a husband rose
And tried to caress what was never there,
A Veiled lady he thought was his wife,
While others in the room almost fainted
To see him step right through her crinoline.
D.D. Home could levitate out windows
And float above a busy London street.
Imagine sitting on the horsehair sofa
Almost hysterical, watching that miracle…
But it was done with thick plate glass and lights,
A conjuror’s trick, just like the accordian
Played by a ghost in front of Robert Browing
Who shuddered when a spirit hand reached out
And put a wreath of flowers on Elizabeth
Though afterwards he called it sham, imposture.
But that’s what I am, that’s what we all are
To one another, a trick of light and glass
Projected before an audience of dupes.
Don’t you see I’m only an illusion?
You look aghast. You think I’m cynical
But when you touch me in the dark at night
You touch biology, twitchings and snores,
Wetness, jerking muscles. Wild images
Flicker across my convoluted brain
As it constructs a person out of dreams.
That woman you say you love doesn’t exist.
Look at the way our faces have appeared
On the black glass of the picture window
Now that it’s evening, and the lights are on.
There she is, standing beside you, smiling.
Go to her. Embrace her if you can.

–Maura Stanton

MARLA MUSE: Wow. That’s glorious.  Carson’s was good, but this poem…

You’re right, Marla. Stanton went Carson one better, I think, in using the glass. 

The game was tied, until, in the second half, with “But that’s what I am…” Stanton went on a 12-2 run and pulled away to win it, 78-63.

Maura Stanton, like her husband, Richard Cecil, advances to the second round in APR March Madness: Scarriet 2011.

8 Comments

  1. March 21, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Can’t agree with this decision – Anne Carson is my favorite poet (and has been since I first picked up “Men in the Off Hours” at a DuPont Circle bookstore in 2001.

  2. March 21, 2011 at 3:31 am

    […] was reading Scarriet (a poetry blog) the other day and read about them crashing Anne Carson out of their little March […]

  3. Noochness said,

    March 21, 2011 at 9:03 am

    My Religion

    My religion makes no sense
    and does not help me
    therefore I pursue it.

    When we see
    how simple it would have been
    we will thrash ourselves.

    I had a vision
    of all the people in the world
    who are searching for God

    massed in a room
    on one side
    of a partition

    that looks
    from the other side
    (God’s side)

    transparent
    but we are blind.
    Our gestures are blind.

    Our blind gestures continue
    for some time until finally
    from somewhere

    on the other side of the partition there we are
    looking back at them.
    it is far too late.

    We see how brokenly
    how warily
    how ill

    our blind gestures
    parodied
    what God really wanted

    (some simple thing).
    The thought of it
    (this simple thing)

    is like a creature
    let loose in a room
    and battering

    to get out.
    It batters my soul
    with its rifle butt.

    Anne Carson

  4. Noochness said,

    March 21, 2011 at 9:07 am

    The Veiled Lady

    In the 19th Century, clever mediums
    Would rap a table, making the dead speak.
    Ghostly hands would hover in the air,
    Heads would appear, Caesar, Napoleon.
    Sometimes the whole immaterial body
    Of someone’s beloved, dead daughter or sister
    Glided through a room allowing swords
    To pass though it. Once a husband rose
    And tried to caress what was never there,
    A Veiled lady he thought was his wife,
    While others in the room almost fainted
    To see him step right through her crinoline.
    D.D. Home could levitate out windows
    And float above a busy London street.
    Imagine sitting on the horsehair sofa
    Almost hysterical, watching that miracle…
    But it was done with thick plate glass and lights,
    A conjuror’s trick, just like the accordian
    Played by a ghost in front of Robert Browing
    Who shuddered when a spirit hand reached out
    And put a wreath of flowers on Elizabeth
    Though afterwards he called it sham, imposture.
    But that’s what I am, that’s what we all are
    To one another, a trick of light and glass
    Projected before an audience of dupes.
    Don’t you see I’m only an illusion?
    You look aghast. You think I’m cynical
    But when you touch me in the dark at night
    You touch biology, twitchings and snores,
    Wetness, jerking muscles. Wild images
    Flicker across my convoluted brain
    As it constructs a person out of dreams.
    That woman you say you love doesn’t exist.
    Look at the way our faces have appeared
    On the black glass of the picture window
    Now that it’s evening, and the lights are on.
    There she is, standing beside you, smiling.
    Go to her. Embrace her if you can.

    Maura Stanton

  5. Poem support said,

    April 3, 2011 at 10:25 am

    TV Men: Thucydides in Conversation with Virginia Woolf on the Set of The Peloponnesian War

    T: Bell dies away in seven seconds then a light comes up and we see you walking.

    VW: Can you explain the walking again.

    T: Begin right with the right foot, left with the left, each time nine steps right to left and back again.

    VW: Does she do this every day.

    T: Yes it is routine.

    VW: Without feeling.

    T: Routine.

    VW: When does she speak.

    T: Fourth step. First sentence ends immediately before the turn.

    VW [walking]: War costs are of two kinds direct and indirect.

    T: When you walk slump together. When you speak straighten up a bit.

    VW: War costs are of two kinds direct and indirect. Direct costs embrace all expenditures made by belligerents in carrying on hostilities.

    T: Too much color. No movements with the head. Monotone, very distant.

    VW: War costs are of two kinds direct and indirect. Direct costs embrace all expenditures made by belligerents in carrying on hostilities. Indirect costs—

    T: It’s an improvisation not a story. You’re looking for words, correct yourself constantly. Voice of an epilogue.

    VW: War costs are of two kinds direct and indirect. Direct costs embrace all expenditures made by belligerents in carrying on hostilities. Indirect costs include economic loss from death—

    T: That’s a terrible singsong now. Tone has to be colder. But tense.

    VW: War costs are of two kinds direct and—

    T: Perhaps we should time the lips’ movements.

    VW: War costs are of two kinds direct and indirect. Direct—no.

    T: You’re looking for the tone, that’s fatal. Think visionary. Try again from “death.”

    VW: …death, property damage, reduced production, war relief and the like. For example, direct costs of the European War 1914-1918 are estimated at $186,333,637,097 and indirect costs at—

    T: Keep the tension.

    VW [voice rising]: $151,646,942,560 bringing the total war bill to $337,980,579,657 (calculated in U.S. dollars) for all participants!

    T: Not quite. Remember you feel cold the whole time. Your body too. North wind and night.

    VW: How about a cigarette.

    T: And not too sad it should under no circumstances sound tragic. Perhaps I’ll leave you alone awhile.

    VW [walking and whispering]: Notwithstanding these figures the First World War was fought mainly on credit.

    T: Lip movements should be roughly the same length. In fact one is twenty-two seconds, the other twenty-four.

    VW: Hence the Second World War.

    T: Can we play with that strip of light.

    Anne Carson


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