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Plainwater: Essays and Poetry

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  1,454 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
The poetry and prose collected in Plainwater are a testament to the extraordinary imagination of Anne Carson, a writer described by Michael Ondaatje as "the most exciting poet writing in English today." Succinct and astonishingly beautiful, these pieces stretch the boundaries of language and literary form, while juxtaposing classical and modern traditions.

Carson envisions
Paperback, 260 pages
Published March 28th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Dec 23, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ppl who like movies by Claire Denis
Recommended to Sarah by: no one, goddamnit
Like two particles in a complex sentence we sit side by side moving forward, eyes on the road. Parataxis is a charged instance of language cold on the surface, unexplained underneath. Let my courage not abandon me. Body and shadow comfort one another, says ancient Chinese wisdom. I spent much of my childhood staring straight ahead at the hood of a car and America unrolling to the horizon. Father too drove with eyes on the road. Stop the tape and look at these people, one young and one old. Like ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The collection is divided into five parts: "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings"; "Short Talks"; "Canicula di Anna"; "The Life of Towns"; and "The Anthropology of Water".

The first part, "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings", presents the fragmented writings of the Greek elegiac poet Mimnermos. It is unclear whether or not these are the authentic writings of Mimnermos. This may be a translation by Anne Carson. This may be a re-imagining of Mimnermos's writings. It is unclear...

fr. 14
None Such as Him
12.26.02 – Notice of Termination of Lease
(from my landlord)

Due to my financial situation, I regret to inform you that I am forced to sell the house you are living in now. This letter serves as your 30 day notice. Please move out completely by January 31, 2003.

12.31.02 – The Year of the Horse

I’m holding on to a new book. It is white like a small hand opening. Like the new year drifting its white-out over the frozen grass. The pages are stiff, each being convinced to turn over. It is learning the
Anne Carson puts together several different prose and poetry styles all together to create something beautiful and amazing. It took me a while to adapt to poetry again after a bit of a hiatus, but Plainwater is so good I've started back into a poetry binge of proportions not seen in recent years. It's amazing and lovely and everyone should go read it.
Jun 05, 2007 Alexandra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My first encounter with Carson--completely life-changing.
Jun 26, 2008 Bryant rated it really liked it
Anne Carson is the Arachne of contemporary poets. A professor of classics and comparative literature at Michigan, Carson has an eight-legged brain that comfortably weaves sixth-century Greek lyric poetry, Renaissance painting, ancient Chinese wisdom literature, Kafka, and the confusion of her (writerly persona's) own love affairs. It is tempting to read the sections of this collection as separate entities. Indeed, the thematic and stylistic differences seem to encourage episodic reading. But suc ...more
Feb 20, 2008 Dawn rated it it was amazing
Classic and Capital. In the sense that it's the one that I read first. It's also the one I taught my students and the one they came in to talk about and they write like and the one that we were all reading when my cat died. That passage about Anna. And also the one with the blood oranges. What a comfort an essay is. Who would have known. Also it is the one I bought god so so long ago and it is ruined because I've read it that many times and others have also gotten their hands on it and I found a ...more
Jan 05, 2012 Bri rated it really liked it
Loved it. I'm not going to pretend I have a complete grasp on the complexities of this collection yet (I feel like I need to spend years studying history, anthropology, mythology, language) but Anne Carson writes beautifully. Creative, clean. Her words find hollows in me and echo. My copy is littered with post its to mark certain lines, passages. Not a review, but a more personal (?) take here.
Dec 02, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing
i think i had to read "autobiography of red" and "beauty of the husband" to get to trust her enough to go through these shorter, sharper pieces, but this is my favorite anne carson so far. by "trust her," i mean understand that she's lying most of the time, but it's for my own good. i would love to learn to move through truth towards beauty the way she does. unfortunately i'm pretty much convinced that it's not something you can learn.
Laurie Neighbors
May 08, 2010 Laurie Neighbors rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-re-read
This book is one big old hunk of gorgeous.
Oct 16, 2010 Mark rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Miss E*
I really did not enjoy this book as a whole. A few parts I did enjoy but they were sparse. The contents are a varied lot to say the least. Even the last part "The Anthropology of Water," which is over half of the book consists of 7 different, highly varied, pieces.

The piece I enjoyed the most was "Kinds of Water: An Essay on the Road to Compostela" from "The Anthropology of Water." It is not an essay but a series of journal entries by someone on the pilgrimage to Compostela and has a lot of inte
S.D. Johnson
Jul 13, 2014 S.D. Johnson rated it it was amazing
One of the more amazing volumes of poetry I have read, Canadian or otherwise. It is an extremely long collection, 260 pages, and not for the hurried or lazy reader, but putting the time into it is rewarding. There are both free verse poems, including a long narrative Canicula di Anna, and prose poems, which are like philosophical picture postcard parables, and while centred around shared narratives and in many, the theme of water, they in no way seem fabricated or forced. The language maintains ...more
Apr 30, 2016 Anthe rated it it was amazing
You know when you get asked, if you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which one would it be? And I'd have to say Plainwater, because there is such a large world contained in its pages that I could read it every day and find something new in these words each time.
Jan 02, 2012 Sandy rated it it was amazing
the last essay in this collection, called "The Wishing Jewel: An Essay on Swimming by My Brother" is a short but stunningly sensual description of swimming, solitude and the dark realms of the imagination.
Apr 02, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, essays
Anne Carson bewilders me. This collection like Decreation is wonderful, crazy, and perfect. I can't explain Ms. Carson, just read one of her interviews. This collection is wonderful. Read it.
Dec 31, 2011 Lori rated it liked it
This time I am reading the essays as well as the poetry.
Nov 21, 2016 Yasmeen rated it really liked it
1/3 of the way through, I was so ready to write a review the equivalent of an eye roll. Everything feels far and out of reach. Pretentious. There are brief glimpses of beauty, but otherwise it feels more like an ego trip than anything else.

But as soon as I got to "Anthropology of Water" something clicked. The writing in it hovers somewhere between essay, poetry, prose, and (I think) something along the lines of a memoir. And it's stunningly beautiful. It's sharp enough that there's always a bar
Oct 31, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing
Jan 02, 2017 Ata rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
still leagues above everyone else
Dec 20, 2016 Anders rated it really liked it
A cool collection of Anne Carson stuff. In general, enjoyable. I will say the introductions to each part are really great. Carson sure can write a good intro. Here are my thoughts on the various pieces:

Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings: Cool, occasionally a little too modern, too free in translation, but then again that's Anne Carson's thing and the fact that she's trying to make the fragments of Mimnermos whole again is commendable. The interviews are particularly good.

Short Talks: already read
Jan 11, 2017 Charlie rated it it was amazing
Gently genuflect before the godlike genius of Anne Carson
Carson seems to blur distinctions among genres, her essays poetic and poems essaylike. There are five parts. Skip a part if you do not like it, as I would buy this book solely for Part V: The Anthropology of Water. I can find myself repeatedly rereading her reflections on the Compostela pilgrimage and her journal entries charting love and travels across the U.S. and Canada, and always finding something new to appreciate.
Feb 13, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I'm giving this 5 stars for Short Talks and Canicula di Anna - I thought they were both (especially the latter) amazing. The other parts weren't as good, in my opinion.

Favorite lines:

"He is troubled by words. In public words formed a clump in him."

"Half moon through pines at dawn
sharp as a girl's ribcage"

"M: I wrote her an epitaph
I: I don't believe I know this piece
M: It was never published the family disapproved
I: I don't suppose you could
M: No
I: But
M: No
I: I wanted to know you
M: I wanted far m
Oct 28, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it
Every couple of years I'll decide I want to read another Anne Carson book and every time I wonder why I waited so long. Probably because she always write about poets that I don't know (or know well enough) and I get sent down researchical paths. In any case, there is no one like her that combines such rigorous yet accessible scholarship with such poignant, bewildering moments of insight and beauty. She is extremely generous in a rare, strict way: she shares the right things. In contrast to someo ...more
Meg Morden
Dec 16, 2016 Meg Morden rated it it was amazing
An imaginative and at times confusingly enigmatic collection of poems and prose, but even when seemingly impenetrable the glorious language carries you along. It is subtitled Essays and Poetry but it is often difficult to know where one leaves off and the other begins. Most powerful for me were her two prose pieces recounting two trips, one a walk along the Camino and the other a car-trip across the US. Carson's words cry out to be read aloud.
Cynthia Rosi
Jun 08, 2014 Cynthia Rosi rated it it was amazing
I didn’t know that anyone would actually publish a book that is a strung-out collection of somewhat essays, and then occult poetry (in the sense of it being hidden, oblique, obscure), and then more essays with no obvious narrative arc and no plot. How did she do it in the climate that has us attending workshops to tighten up the sagging middles of our books? Artistry, that’s how. This book is a work of art, canvases built with words in various ways. I got over my astonishment that Carson has flo ...more
Roz Weisberg
Dec 22, 2014 Roz Weisberg rated it liked it
In “The Anthropology of Water”, Anne Carson’s poetic use of language weaves together the personal experiences and understanding of feelings by placing her life and experiences into a greater context, of what makes up life itself. Despite what feels grandiose and heady Carson finds the connective tissue between her travels, relationships, loves and losses to the greater context. The existential exploration becomes tangible and relatable. From the opening line, “Water is something you cannot hold” ...more
At last I've finished wading through Plainwater. It's good, it's Carson, but it's not my favorite Carson--mostly prose and mostly lots of it, a good chunk Carson on male-female love, which I just don't think is her strongest subject.

This book has been on my "currently reading" list for months. . . more accurate to say it's been languishing under my bed for months. And, now that I'm reading it again, I can see why. It's the usual Carson intellect, mad jumps, fun verbs, etc, but feels clunkier
Oct 05, 2013 Nasim rated it it was amazing
Everything up to The Anthropology of Water was too beautiful, I felt I wouldn't be able to bear any more any longer. Then came the last part, over half of the book, which, for Carson, was mediocre. She could have done without it. I waited patiently, until the very end, for her to return to the genius of Short Talks or her wonderful phenomenologist conference poem, as always blending time so fittingly. This collection missed a bit on her clashes of great minds through the ages, and developed a si ...more
Aug 09, 2016 Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anne Carson composes a stretto of Japanese and Greek poets, Renaissance painters, Chinese courtesans, Spanish nobleman and German authors in Plainwater. As usual, it's difficult to describe the esoteric legerdemain she can conjure, but a few examples reside in this collection: imbuing Mimnermus with magical anachronism; the dissection of a personal relationship juxtaposed with Zen poetry and ancient Chinese anecdotes about emperors and concubines; and poetic homilies that stir the mind and the h ...more
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Anne Carson is a Canadian poet, essayist, translator and professor of Classics. Carson lived in Montreal for several years and taught at McGill University, the University of Michigan, and at Princeton University from 1980-1987. She was a 1998 Guggenheim Fellow. and in 2000 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She has also won a Lannan Literary Award.

Carson (with background in classical language
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