Thursday, 17 June 2010


This review in the current TLS alerted me to what looks like it may be an outstanding example of an "artist's book", Nox by Canadian poet Anne Carson. The book is Carson's reaction to a poem by Catullus, in word and image.

Catullus is not much mentioned these days, and I can't claim any expertise myself, but if you have come across the phrase "Frater ave atque vale" (Brother, hail and farewell) you already know something of what was once a very famous poem, Catullus 101* or more properly CI -- perhaps better known in various translations and allusions to those famous closing words, ave atque vale. These are Catullus' farewell words to his brother, spoken after a long journey to stand by his grave. The poem was once a touchstone to those classically-educated nineteenth century poets.

Setting aside the appropriateness of the poem this week (though, if you're reading this, Phil old friend, this is very much written with you in mind, and -- though I know you're not one for "signs and portents" ... always a good thing in a GP ... perhaps you'll allow me a little pleasure in the coincidence**) I'm very attracted by what Anne Carson seems to have done with the poem, and -- having ordered myself a copy -- I'm now going to alert you to it.

Read the review, take a look at the images on, maybe look at the Wikipedia page on "101", and make up your own mind.

Image from "In Darknesse Let Mee Dwelle" (work in progress)

* No, fool, "Catullus 101" is not a beginner's course in Latin poetry, but the reference number scholars have given to it -- a bit like a Mozart "K" number.

** Phil: One of Anne Carson's books -- and I'm not making this up, honest -- is "
The Beauty of the Husband: a Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos". "Synchronicity spoken here", as we used to say...


Gavin McL said...

I am looking forward to the rest of

"In Darknesse Let Mee Dwelle"

and thank you for the signpost to Catullus

Mike C. said...

Me, too... There's nothing like sequencing a set of photos to make you realise it's not yet quite finished...