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Short Conditional Take on Anne Carson

If I attended “An Hour with Anne Carson,” at the Vancouver Writers Festival yesterday.
If Aislinn Hunter introduced her, using the unlikely but nifty words “betweenity” (purloined from the Brontës’ letters, she said) and “blacksmithery” (source unclear).
If Aislinn Hunter spoke of Anne Carson’s writing’s “fierceness, a fearlessness framed in exquisite craft.”
If Anne Carson then said she had never had an introduction that used the words “betweenity” and “blacksmithery.”
If her miked voice had what seemed to me to be intensity in restraint.
If Anne Carson said she was glad to be back in Canada if only to get a proper bran muffin.
If she then read an essay written in a kitchen in Ontario in winter.
If it was called “Merry Christmas from Hegel,” and if it was, post Nox, a meditation on stillness.
If she admitted, perhaps untruthfully perhaps not, to not understanding Hegel.
If she said she will paraphrase Hegel badly.
If the essay described, with what seemed to me to be aching restraint, what she called “snow-standing” amid the stillness of conifers.
If the text only mentioned Hegel briefly.
If she wrote something like, “The world subtracts itself in layers.”
If she also described that subtraction as something like, “shadow on shadow in precise velocities,” which might be an image of Hegelian negation.
If she said afterward that she wouldn’t be able to answer any questions about Hegel.
If people applauded because it was a beautiful essay and her reading was very beautiful.
         If she then read an essay on a painting by Betty Goodwin.
If the essay was called “Betty Goodwin Seated Figure with Red Angle,” and if it was written for an issue of Art Forum.
If the right title is “Seated Figure with Red Angle (1988) by Betty Goodwin (by Anne Carson).”
If Anne Carson said, “The form is kind of whacked out.”
If by form she meant her essay not the painting.
If she also said that she wanted to find a form or a syntax that suited her own inability to have an opinion about Betty Goodwin’s painting.
If she never said, Ut pictura poesis.
If the form she chose was to write the whole thing in conditionals, seventy-three of them she said, including mention of horses and Freud, each of the seventy-three beginning with the word “if.”
If the idea was to open up to the sentence “the space in your mind that is prior to opinion.”
If I heard in her sense of “opinion” what Plato calls pistis, “belief,” a subordinate form of doxa, “opinion,” but she did not say this, and I may be both pretentious and wrong.
If she said her conditional essay “was fun to do but will be intolerable to listen to.”
If no one believed her when she said this.
If it wasn’t intolerable, not at all.
If she wrote, “If body is always deep, but deepest at its surface.”
If this made me think.
If she also wrote, “If artists tell you art is before thought.”
If by that she meant Betty Goodwin specifically, but I also took it to mean herself.
If everyone applauded again because she was wryly brilliant and provocative.
If she went on to read from Autobiography of Red and red doc>.
If there was more heartfelt applause.
If she took a bow.
If people asked her questions.
If she took another bow.
If she autographed my book, “Respectfully, AC.”
If I could thank her.

Short Take on Paul Muldoon Talking, a Précis

Paul Muldoon was interviewed by John Freeman on stage at the Waterfront Theatre at the Vancouver International Writers Festival this afternoon, and he’ll be reading as one of eight poets at the Poetry Bash tonight at Performance Works on Granville Island. He was asked right off the bat to talk about his collaboration with Warren Zevon, which resulted in a song, “My Ride’s Here,” the title track on Zevon’s last record (and was then covered for a posthumous tribute album by none other than Bruce Springsteen). Mr Muldoon said he “kind of went to school with Warren Zevon,” noting “just how difficult it is to write a song” to make it sound so effortless, and praising Zevon’s genius. He found himself, in composing his lyrics, trying to locate a raw, emotional “angle of entry” into a song. Asked to differentiate between poetry and song, he said:  “I suppose at some level the pressure per square inch in that [Muldoon’s lyric, ‘You Say You’re Just Hanging Out . . .’] isn’t quite what it could be in one of the poems.” At the same time, he said how he wants to realize his own desire for directness and clarity, which lyrics can so better “at some level.” He said he was still “struck by Seamus Heaney’s (I think) successful attempts to pick up Yeats’s suggestion that ‘Myself I must remake,'” and also declared that “poems are more evidently (not necessarily more truly) made out of the core of one’s being.” He described the impact of BBC radio on his desire for clarity and “the need to be direct.” At John Freeman’s request, he read “Wind and Tree” from his first collection: “In the way that most of the wind / Happens where there are trees, / Most of the world is centred / About ourselves.” He read from Madoc, noting as well that he was a “big fan of our friend Laurence Sterne” and how he had also derived a “fascination with lists” from Robinson Crusoe, Defoe’s interest in “stuff.” He said he encouraged his students to develop “a sense of the resonances of every word in a poem,” the specificity of language. He read his song-lyric, “Elephant Anthem,” and noted how he used to pore over lyrics printed on lp sleeves.