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#anne carson

“we’re talking about the struggle to drag a thought over from the mush of the unconscious into some kind of grammar, syntax, human sense; every attempt means starting over with language. starting over with accuracy. i mean, every thought starts over, so every expression of a thought has to do the same. every accuracy has to be invented… . i feel i am blundering in concepts too fine for me.”

— Anne Carson, in an interview with Sam Anderson for the New York Times

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It is a two-way traffic,


the language of the unsaid.

Anne Carson, Liberty

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(from)The Glass Essay


Well there are many ways of being held prisoner,

I am thinking as I stride over the moor.

As a rule after lunch mother has a nap


and I go out to walk.

The bare blue trees and bleached wooden sky of April

carve into me with knives of light.


Something inside it reminds me of childhood—

it is the light of the stalled time after lunch

when clocks tick


and hearts shut

and fathers leave to go back to work

and mothers stands at the kitchen sink pondering


something they will never tell.

You remember too much,

my mother said to me recently.


Why hold onto all that? And I said,

Where can I put it down?


Anne Carson

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Anne Carson, Economy of the Unlost: (Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan)

As Danaë struggles to find a name for something she knows as τὸ δεινόν (“the terrible”), she produces an anguished tautology (“If to you the terrible were terrible …”) in which the two possibilities of babble and God-given speech stand side by side—the latter hauntingly translated into the former, as it must be here among die Geschwätzigen. We have no other words to use. We know they don’t count but we lay them against the abyss anyway because they are what mark it for us, contrafactually. “There may be, in one direction, two kinds of strangeness next to each other,” said Celan once.
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The word Geschwätz is a common German term for everyday chitchat. But Felstiner suggests it may have for Celan “hints of Babel and the loss of original language.” He explains:

For in Walter Benjamin’s essay “On Language in General and on the Language of Man,” Geschwätz designates empty speech after the Fall, speech without Adam’s power of naming… The babbling of Celan’s Jews is a comedown—via the cataclysm that ruined Benjamin—from God-given speech.

Anne Carson, Economy of the Unlost: (Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan)

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Gratitude and memory go together, morally and philologically. Paul Celan locates memory, in his Bremen speech, in an etymological link between thinking and thanking:

Denken und Danken sind in unserer Sprache Worte ein und desselben Ursprungs. Wer ihrem Sinn folgt, begibt sich in den Bedeutungsbereich von: “gedenken,” “engedenk sein,” “Andenken,” “Andacht.”

[To Think and to Thank are in our language words of one and the same origin. Whoever follows their sense comes to the semantic field of “to remember,” “to be mindful,” “memory,” “devotion.”]

For the Greeks, memory is rooted in utterance, if we may judge from the etymology of the noun μνήμη (“memory”), which is cognate with the verb μιμνήσκομαι (“I remember,” “I make mention,” “I name”), and from the genealogy of the goddess Mnemosyne, who is called “mother of the Muses” by Homer and Hesiod. Memorable naming is the function of poetry, within a society like that of the Greeks, for the poet uses memory to transform our human relationship to time. Had Simonides not named their names, the Skopads would have vanished into the past. 

— Anne Carson, Economy of the Unlost: (Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan)

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