‘Merry Christmas from Hegel’ by Anne Carson

Another Christmas story, and another story by a poet, and another story that many may just think is a poem, but I would argue again it meets the definition I go by as having a beginning, middle, and an end, and there is a point of tension within it. Carson is one of my favourite writers, and I don’t often think of her as a poet, more of an adventurer, an explorer, and language is her forbidden planet. I think ‘Merry Christmas from Hegel’ is one of the most effecting and lingering explorations of grief and loneliness that I have ever read. Just like the narrator, you don’t have to understand Hegelian philosophy to get what is being done here. Language, its knots and strands, is being used to push a boulder up a hill, not, necessarily, to unpick and explicate existential critical theory (did I just call Hegel an existentialist? – see, I told you you didn’t need to understand any of it to get the point). What blows me away about this story is the emotional journey we go on, from grief to quiet exuberance, all via a deep dive in Hegelianism and the art of building snowmen. 

First published in Float, Cape, 2016. You can hear Carson read it here

‘The Glass Essay’ by Anne Carson

I have a soft grey notebook, filled with things I can’t say out loud, things I daren’t write anywhere else. When I think about attempting to write something on the scale of Carson’s Glass Essay, I laugh at my impudence. Some things need to live (or die) a little more before they’re ready.

From Glass, Irony and God, New Directions, 1995. It is also available online here.

‘The Glass Essay’ by Anne Carson

I have an ambivalent relationship with Anne Carson’s writing, finding much of it uneven (there is quite a lot of it), but the best, which is this hybrid work, is assured and disturbing. Carson uses free verse to explore the inner weather of a woman recovering from the ending of a serious relationship. She visits her mother accompanied by the books and spirit of her favourite author, Emily Brontë. Reflections on Brontë are interwoven with elucidation of the narrator’s mental state and evocations of the “moor in the north”. The melancholy of the monologue is relieved by Carson’s trademark wit.

From Glass, Irony, and God, New Directions, 1995. It is also online here