Citation for Anne Carson’s “Men in the Off Hours”

by Carolyn Forché

Anne Carson continues to redefine what a book of poetry can be; this ambitious collection ranges from quatrains studded with uncanny images (‘Here lies the refugee breather/who drank a bowl of elsewhere’) to musing verse essays, personal laments, rigorous classical scholarship, and meditations on artists’ lives, caught in the carnage of history. All are burnished by Carson’s dialectical imagination, and her quizzical, stricken moral sense.

Notes on the Poem

We've noted before that when we consider each Poem of the Week, we often take as our cue the observations of our judges, beautifully encapsulated in the citations that accompany each shortlist announcement. We've also remarked on how those citations are often poetic works unto themselves, as they pay tribute to shortlisted works. We marveled at how 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize judge Heather McHugh riffs on Ken Babstock's words and stylistic flourishes in Methodist Hatchet to offer her assessment and praise. very different in approach and style, but equally reverent of the work and celebratory of the poet's accomplishments, is Carolyn Forché's citation for Anne Carson's Men in the Off Hours, which won the inaugural Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize in 2001. Forché's awe is conveyed in precise, succinct language, with a striking example of Carson's work as the citation's almost literal centrepiece. The concluding sentence is unforgettably resonant, with the elegant phrase "her quizzical, stricken moral sense" reverberating like the crisp peal of a bell. This citation speaks tantalizing volumes about the work in just a few well-chosen words and sentences.

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