The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The indelible voice of poet and classics scholar Anne Carson brought poetry to life at the Moore Building for the O, Miami poetry festival with a collaborative performance of her latest work, "Nox."
In "Nox," the book and the performance, we discover a stoic Anne Carson who reacts (and grieves) to the death of her estranged brother Michael by unifying history with elegy, and expresses that energy through movement and space. Carson's work illuminates the personal and the private and shares with us—the viewer and the reader—the treasured and not-so-treasured memories of her brother. Carson writes, “I wanted to fill my elegy with light of all kinds. But death makes us stingy. ... No mater how I try to evoke the starry lad he was, it remains a plain, odd history. So I began to think about history.”
The performance began on the first level of the Moore, which was illuminated by a single projector and ambient street light. The dancers, expertly choreographed by Rashaun Mitchell, moved through the naked interior, around columns, and cast their shadows (of Michael? of memories?) upon the bare walls. The dense, multiphonic soundscapes of Ben Miller created a haunting backdrop throughout the course of the performance.
When the performance moved to the second floor, we were confronted with Carson's book strewn about the space as the dancers moved in and out of the physical text. Eventually Carson and her collaborator, Robert Currie, appeared. They moved back and forth between two projectors on the east and west side of the room and drew child-like images that were projected onto the walls. The performance concluded on the third floor where Carson and Currie used two projectors that were set up next to each other. The two artists drew and erased and drew again what appeared to be random shapes as the dancers moved in and out and through the projected light.
On my way to the car, a friend commented that poetry is so personal, and I instantly remembered one of the last things Carson said during the performance: “a brother lasts forever.” It reminded me of something I had forgotten. In her essay “Poems Are Autobiography,” Louise Gluck writes that “poems are autobiography, but divested of the trappings of chronology and comment, the metronomic alternation of anecdote and response ... [and] may change and develop less in reaction to the lived life than in reaction to the poet's prior discoveries, or the discoveries of others.”
Maybe a brother does last forever. Maybe this is what Carson discovered. That Michael's memory or her memory of him will live in Nox.
O, Miami is a countywide poetry festival inaugurating in April 2011. Its goal is for every person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem during the month of April. Preview all upcoming events during the month of April at www.omiami.org.