Wrong Norma

New Directions. Feb. 2024. 192p. ISBN 9780811230346. pap. $17.95. POETRY
In a note to her newest collection, multi-award-winning Canadian poet/classicist Carson (Red Doc>) claims, “The pieces are not linked. That’s why I’ve called them wrong.” Yet as the collection moves from a woman swimming, to a non-encounter between Joseph Conrad and Thomas Hardy, to the eternal sky launching creation, to a raucous contemporary Socrates writing scoldingly to Krito, links do emerge. This is writing about the nature of writing, thinking about the nature of thinking, an effort to show how things are put together. A woman with unwanted visitors is calmed by the organizing principles of Roget’s Thesaurus; a swimmer observes that “Every water / has its own rules,” even as she considers the ludicrous contrast between her morning and that of immigrants denied transit. Meanwhile, the sky keeps a diary, and an assistant (“calm as linen”) contemplates sonnets about “a boy’s atrocious bloody bore- / dom… the steaming, / stinking heap of it urged into rhyme.” Carson’s own writing is as piercingly smart and perceptive as ever (she compares bread to “a freshly laundered / cuff white as its own piety.”)
VERDICT Original, erudite, yet straightforwardly written; highly recommended for poetry enthusiasts.
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