The Beauty Of The Husband is an essay on Keats’s idea that beauty is truth, and is also the story of a marriage. It is told in 29 tangos. A tango (like a marriage) is something you have to dance to the end.
This clear-eyed, brutal, moving, darkly funny book tells a single story in an immediate, accessible voice — 29 “tangos” of narrative verse that take us vividly through erotic, painful, and heartbreaking scenes from a long-time marriage that falls apart. Only award-winning poet Anne Carson could create a work that takes on the oldest of lyrical subjects — love — and make it this powerful, this fresh, this devastating.
About the author
Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living. A former MacArthur Fellow, awards for her numerous books include the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Red Doc> was recently awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize and the inaugural Folio Prize. Her first full poetry collection, Short Talks, was published by Brick Books in 1992 and was presented as a new edition in 2015: SHORT TALKS: BRICK BOOKS CLASSICS 1.
- Winner, Griffin Poetry Prize
Excerpt: The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos (by (author) Anne Carson)
II. BUT A DEDICATION IS ONLY FELICITOUS IF PERFORMED BEFORE WITNESSES — IT IS AN ESSENTIALLY PUBLIC SURRENDER LIKE THAT OF STANDARDS OF BATTLE
You know I was married years ago and when he left my husband took my notebooks.
You know that cool sly verb write. He liked writing, disliked having to start
each thought himself.
Used my starts to various ends, for example in a pocket I found a letter he'd begun
(to his mistress at that time)
containing a phrase I had copied from Homer: 'entropalizomenh is how Homer says
after she parted from Hektor — "often turning to look back"
down from Troy's tower and through stone streets to her loyal husband's
house and there
with her women raised a lament for a living man in his own halls.
Loyal to nothing
my husband. So why did I love him from early girlhood to late middle age
and the divorce decree came in the mail?
Beauty. No great secret. Not ashamed to say I loved him for his beauty.
As I would again
if he came near. Beauty convinces. You know beauty makes sex possible.
Beauty makes sex sex.
You if anyone grasp this — hush, let's pass
to natural situations.
Other species, which are not poisonous, often have colorations and patterns
similar to poisonous species.
This imitation of a poisonous by a nonpoisonous species is called mimicry.
My husband was no mimic.
You will mention of course the war games. I complained to you often enough
when they were here all night
with the boards spread out and rugs and little lamps and cigarettes like Napoleon's
tent I suppose,
who could sleep? All in all my husband was a man who knew more
about the Battle of Borodino
than he did about his own wife's body, much more! Tensions poured up the walls
and along the ceiling,
sometimes they played Friday night till Monday morning straight through, he
and his pale wrathful friends.
They sweated badly. They ate meats of the countries in play.
formed no small part of my relationship to the Battle of Borodino.
I hate it.
Why play all night.
The time is real.
It's a game.
It's a real game.
Is that a quote.
I need to touch you.
That night we made love "the real way" which we had not yet attempted
although married six months.
Big mystery. No one knew where to put their leg and to this day I'm not sure
we got it right.
He seemed happy. You're like Venice he said beautifully.
Early next day
I wrote a short talk ("On Defloration") which he stole and had published
in a small quarterly magazine.
Overall this was a characteristic interaction between us.
Or should I say ideal.
Neither of us had ever seen Venice.
“The most exciting poet writing in English today.” —Michael Ondaatje
“Brilliantly captured…Reading her is to experience a euphonious, mystical sort of perplexity…punctuated by what the husband himself calls ‘short blinding passages’…moments of almost unbearable poignancy.” —The New York Times
“Her best book.... Her poetry’s form and sensibility are quite unlike anything else.” —The Globe and Mail
“With swift strokes depicting the illusions and disillusions of a marriage gone sour, Carson has managed to make the intellectual life hip. In her hands, a quote from Plato seems as natural as a pop reference…. Then there are the lines of sheer lyricism, lines that send us spinning back to the idea of beauty, of truth.” —Miami Herald
“An exquisite meditation on love and loss that reads with the emotional depth — and with the ongoing resonance — of a great novel.” —Elle
“I would read anything that [Anne Carson] wrote.” —Susan Sontag