A Memoir in Stories and Poems
Ann Elizabeth Carson
Inanna Publications Review by Trudy Metcalf Which parts of your story do you remember? Which would you choose, or dare to reveal, “for all to see and examine”?
These questions interest Ann Elizabeth Carson, poet, author, artist and retired psychotherapist. Carson, a woman holding 86 years of life experience, offers an intimate collection of poems and prose pieces in her latest book, Laundry Lines.
Carson begins with her assertion that “we are born into story.” Thus, the story is never ours alone, but is part of a much longer, deeper line stretching both out and back, tying the storyteller to her ancestors and to her descendants.
On the cover are Carson’s laundry lines, but no clothes are pegged, as one might expect. Instead, there hang rows of white paper, linen-crisp, blank, one in mid-fall. Readers need only come around to the other side, where they will find prose pieces about “the complex emotional inheritance and painful undertow in families,” coming of age during wartime, leatherback sea turtles and the death of a child. There are poems that delight, heal, warn or tell of Carson’s ardent attachment to the natural world, particularly in regard to her time spent on Ontario’s treasured Manitoulin Island.
This collection is an interesting mix, unflinching, heartening, wistful. Some of the pieces are more satisfying than others. I lost my way, for example, within the longest prose piece, “Weave and Mend,” unable at times to sort out the aunts and other relatives.At the same time, I gained an observer’s grasp of what being born into story means for Carson, of the sifting and sorting, the meaning-making that is the particular and complex work of people in later life.For Carson it is the “slow reconciliation with the blows and beauties meted out by life that comes with age.”
We need to pay attention to Ann Elizabeth Carson and to others like her who are committed to making sense of a long life being lived wholeheartedly. “I am a jumble of fascination and frustration,” she writes.How happy I am that it is so.