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Plainwater: Essays and Poetry

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,868 ratings  ·  131 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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4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,868 ratings  ·  131 reviews

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Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you enjoy a new-to-you author this much, you just hope you haven't made the mistake of choosing her best book to read first. And though Plainwater is a flavorful mix of essays and poetry, it really amounts to poetry, whether in traditional lines and stanzas or hidden in paragraph form. The lady has a word with ways, as they say.

The book opens modestly enough with "Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings," which is an interview between the author and a 7th-century B.C. poet (but of course!). The m
Dec 23, 2012 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 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
My first encounter with Carson--completely life-changing.
Jun 26, 2008 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
Jan 05, 2012 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.
Laurie Neighbors
May 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-re-read
This book is one big old hunk of gorgeous.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, to-reread
… It’s been 15 days since I finished this book and yet I don’t have the words to express how I feel towards this. The Anthropology of Water was extraordinary. The Brainsex Paintings were a great reminder of the time I used to study ancient Greek (and I might pick up the original Greek ones and perhaps comeback to Carson’s essay once more, hence why I’ll put this in my to-re-read list).

But seriously, the Anthropology of Water was even more than extraordinary.
Feb 20, 2008 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
Dec 02, 2007 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.
Sentimental Surrealist
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have to confess, Carson almost lost me with this one. Or at least she came as close to losing me as she has thus far, because parts one and two (which we’ll discuss) were both incredible, and this books last hundred fifty pages are probably the most moving and most original stretch of Anne Carson that I’ve ever read. None of these, let me assure you, are the problem. The problem is “Canicula di Anna,” sits on the same poetic-scholarly faultline as Autobiography of Red. Obviously, Red is a wond ...more
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"what is the fear inside language? no accident of the body can make it stop burning" "it is a strange economy that shame sets up, isn't it? almost as strange as that of honor" god i love anne carson, i love that if this was any other writer i would find it unnecessarily pretentious but as i was saying to jay the fact is that she is just so far disattached from convention and the public eye that it becomes wondrous again. does that make sense. anyway what she does with metaphor/simile is remarkab ...more
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“I will do anything to avoid boredom. It is the task of a lifetime. You can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.”

Always and forever in the mood for Anne Carson. I can never get enough of her free-wheeling mind and her absolute independence as a writer and thinker. This is a multifaceted collection, featuring a long poem, short “talks,” and travel diaries with lo
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
that was very much a lot.
musa b-n
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I originally got it because I wanted to read "Anthropology of Water" (the final section of this book), but each section was so good. In my opinion, each section got progressively better, and "Anthropology" was the best. It took me a while because it's definitely not very clear writing and I have a short attention span, but it was really good to read, with some powerful parts.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"How slow is the slow trance of wisdom, which the swimmer swims into." This book is well worth swimming into.
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
absolutely loved it, esp. part 1 (mimnermos) & part 5 (the anthropology of water). anne carson never disappoints me.
Oct 16, 2010 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
Jan 02, 2012 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 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 rated it liked it
This time I am reading the essays as well as the poetry.
Candy Sheridan
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Whether people are fans or critics of the late Sigmund Freud, the great philosopher, it is the uncanny, somewhat witty voice of Anne Carson that also is a deep thinker. Carson is a Canadian-born poet, writer, and translator of other works such as Glass, Irony and God, Autobiography of Red, Men in the Off Hours. It was mentioned to me prior to this review this could be a “tricky” review and that’s probably because, as a first-year literary student, her collection makes me feel stupid; not because ...more
Gwendolyn Jerris
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Are you going to let your face distorted by warring desires pour down on us all through the meal or tidy yourself so we can at least enjoy our dessert?”

and oh how she does always come at the right time, and i’ll never not love Anne Carson’s work.

my adoration of the imaginative use of language. how she says,

“you can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.”

yes. lea
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites
Anne Carson is a genius. That sounds reductive, but I honestly cannot even begin to approach how to discuss her work intelligently or meaningfully in a way that adds anything new to it - because it's all already there in the work itself. I may not always know exactly what she's saying, but her words make me viscerally feel more than any other writer I know. Even when you have no idea where she's leading you at first, the endpoint is always worth taking the journey. So I'll leave it at that: Anne ...more
Ana María
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Well enlightenment is useless but I find interesting the distinction anthropologists make between an *emic* and an *etic* point of view. Emic has to do with the perspective of a member of the society itself and etic is the point of view of an outsider seeing the society in his own terms. Lovers--correct me if I'm wrong--insist on bringing the two perspectives together, a sort of double exposure. To draw into the very inside of my heart the limit that was supposed to mark it on the outside, your ...more
Isa C.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“The beloved's innocence
brutalizes the lover.
As the singing of a mad person
behind you on the train
enrages you,
its beautiful
animal-like teeth
shining amid black planes
of paint.
As Helen
enrages history.
Antonio Delgado
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anne Carson masterfully erases the thin line between poetry and essay. The self experiences its becoming with the most trivial aspects of life.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
lemme just prostrate myself real quick thx Anne
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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 to 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 langu
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