Grief doesn’t only disturb life; it disturbs the way we talk about life. As myriad aspects of our existence are questioned and reexamined in the wake of a death, so too is our relationship with the language we rely on for our grief’s expression. “In the sentence ‘She’s no longer suffering,’” Roland Barthes notes after the death of his mother, “to what, to whom does ‘she’ refer? What does that present tense mean?’” So too Anne Carson, discussing her work Nox in an interview with Brick journal, states that elegy – the process of paying literary homage to a lost one – is always a visible failure, a process of “non-arriving” while linguistically “giving the shape of a person” in a visibly constructed manner. Our relationship with language as truth is made uneasy after a death. We are always “telling a story” (Carson) when we elegise. Our loved ones are always linguistic constructions. And they are always more than the sum of our words.
[Read the rest over at The Rumpus]
It is similar to an admission in Stevens’ second track: “My brother had a daughter / The beauty that she brings, illumination” – the idea of creating something beautiful in the middle of a black shroud. Whatever their anxieties, Carrie & Lowell and Nox have surely made it good indeed.