Laun­dry Lines

Herizons - - Arts & Culture -

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.

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