I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Measure-taking

Philip Coleman
Red Doc>, by Anne Carson, Cape Poetry, 166 pp, £12, ISBN: 978-022409754 In an essay published in Metre in 2004, Ron Callan pondered the use of what he called a single “angle bracket” in the phrase “copulate / < copulare:” from the Jewish American poet Carl Rakosi’s poem “Everyman”. “But what of the angle bracket?” Callan asked, and continued: Certainly it signals the introduction of the Latin word and is simply a bracket to introduce a different discourse ‑ the stem of the English word is presented. But why the single angle bracket? The symbol < means “less than” in mathematics. It might also suggest a way in, a way out, a signpost to penetrate and receive ‑ a medium strangely represented, and poised between italicised signs requiring explanation. Callan’s musings on Rakosi’s punctuation are helpful as one begins to consider Anne Carson’s latest book-length work, Red Doc>, a text whose title invites similar questions about the nature and function of what appears, on one level, to be an invocation of the mathematical symbol for the inequality “greater than”. A cover note in the Cape edition reveals that the term “Red” refers to “the red-winged Geryon” from Carson’s earlier work Autobiography of Red (1998) and, in a KCRW Bookworm interview with Michael Silverblatt, Carson suggests that “Doc” simply refers to the Microsoft Word file on which the text was stored on her computer. Taken together, however, what is it that this new document (“Red.doc”) may claim to be “greater than”? The question is particularly troubling given Carson’s insistence, in the same interview, that the text is “not even a document” but a “truncated thing” bearing little more than “traces” of a person who may once have existed. Red certainly precedes Red Doc>, and in Autobiography of Red Carson provides a profoundly moving reconstruction of the figure of Geryon – “everything about him was red” ‑ a “monster” who comes down to us out of Ancient Greek myth and was the subject of what Carson calls “a very long lyric poem in dactyl-epitrite meter and triadic structure” by the poet Stesichorus (“[b]orn about 650BC on the north coast of Sicily in a city called Himera”). In a sense, then, Geryon’s story is already greater than the attempts of either Stesichorus or Carson to retell it, and this goes some way towards explaining both the structural and the narrative openendedness of Carson’s text. Whether Stesichorus strove after closure in his…

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