Between Words

Anne Carson’s new book-without-a-spine, and the spiritual experience of centrelessness.

“Sometimes I feel I spend my whole life rewriting the same page,” writes Anne Carson, in her new poetry collection, Float. “It is a page with ‘Essay on Translation’ at the top and … by the end there is not much left but a few flakes of language roaming near the margins.” Like the quick-witted but vulnerable kid who will joke at her own expense before you point out her flaws, Carson seems to want to tell us, before we point it out, that she knows that even she has habits.

Carson, credited with having radically advanced the practice of contemporary poetry in English, earned a worldwide readership with genre-defying work described as “unclassifiable.” You would think her almost incapable of producing anything one could call formulaic. But it has been 25 years since Glass, Irony and God, and more than 15 since Daphne Merkin called The Beauty of the Husband “thrillingly new.” Float is as erudite, and beautiful, as the...