What is an adjective? Nouns name the world. Verbs activate the names. Adjectives come from somewhere else. The word adjective (epitheton in Greek) is itself an adjective meaning "placed on top," "added," appended," "imported," "foreign." Adjectives seem fairly innocent additions but look again. These small imported mechanisms are in charge of attaching everything in the world to its place in particularity. They are the latches of being.~ Anne Carson in the intro to Autobiography Of Red
I love this book. The writing, the story, the images. Through all the filters -- time, language, fragments falling out as you walk -- the Greekness stays intact.
from Ruth Padel's wonderful review of Anne Carson's great Autobiography Of Red.
A Novel in Verse.By Anne Carson.
149 pp. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf. $23.
Ancient meaning from papyrus fragments and linguistic likelihood, is suddenly the new image for obsessive love. ''The Invention of Love,'' Tom Stoppard's* play about the scholar and poet A. E. Housman, is packing London's Royal National Theater and entrancing unscholarly audiences with Housman's scholarly lectures on the Roman poet Propertius as well as Housman's own poems of unrequited love. In lyric mode, the scholar and poet Anne Carson has created, from fragments of the Greek poet Stesichorus, a profound love story -- a reverie on the mystery of one person's power over another, seen through the double lens of scholarship and verse.
Stesichorus was a Sicilian Greek from the early classical age. Little of his poetry survives, but it was famous for being both sweet (a nightingale, it was said, sang on his lips in the cradle) and, according to the ancient rhetorician Quintilian, ''extravagant.'' Giving lyric poetry an epic grandeur, he failed to observe conventional lyric boundaries. (This, says Quintilian, is ''the fault of a well-stored mind.'') He also wrote a poem, now lost, that showed Helen of Troy in a shameful light. Since Helen was a goddess, as well as a mythical character, she retaliated, he claimed, by blinding him. He wrote a replay -- a palinode that denied what he had written and said Helen had never gone to Troy -- and found he could see again.
*yes, Stoppard's written the new Anna Karenina flick.