On the final night of the 2013 AWP conference held in Boston, Massachusetts, the Hynes Ballroom was packed for the final reading of the conference which was delivered by Lucie Brock-Broido and Anne Carson. Although Lucie Brock-Broido was quirky and quite unique, it was Anne Carson’s reading that really stood out as far as bridging the gap between poetry and art.
Anne Carson began her reading by delighting attendees with passages from “Life of Towns” from her book Plainwater (1995). Afterwards attendees got to hear excerpts from her brand new work, The Albertine Workout, an upcoming collaboration with Kim Anno, a visual artist from California.
Poetry and art are being hinged together by Carson and Anno to create what Carson explained to be a book about sleep. The 59-part series of poems focuses on Albertine Simonet, one of the main characters from Marcel Proust’s The Captive. Carson explained that although Albertine appears on over 800 pages of the novel she is asleep on 19% of those pages and is kept, both willingly and unwillingly, in her lover’s house. Carson suggests that Proust’s Albertine was inspired by Alfred Agostinelli, Proust’s secretary—a theme she wittily explores within The Albertine Workout.
The monotone voice in which Anne Carson read suited the piece by animating Albertine’s life in a way that reflects that exploration of sleep. Although the piece is full of wit, Albertine’s life is described as quite mundane. Despite some of the accounts presented, such as when Albertine’s lover sometimes has his way with her when he thinks she is sleeping, everything is hinged together by Carson in a way that allows for humor to seep through. Carson brings life to the sleeping character of Albertine in the well crafted way that Anne Carson is known—blending prose with poetry and references to classical literature with modern day wit.
What also stood out were the many plant life references made in Carson’s work, such as “the false consciousness of the dream plant” and “Albertine’s laugh has the color and smell of a geranium,” to name a few. It is interesting to see this parallel hinge between sleeping and fauna which Carson brings to life, as if to imply that plants are beautiful but forever in a state of sleep, unable to leave their current situation—just like Albertine remains trapped with her lover.
The reading did not preview any of the visual work being created by Kim Anno in collaboration with the forthcoming limited edition book, The Albertine Workout, but a preview can be found on Anno’s website under the book “sleep.” Even without the presence of the visual art, the reading itself was nonetheless a delight. Anne Carson was a wonder to see and hear as her humor tickled the audience in just the right way. I could not have imagined AWP ending on a more wonderful note.