Anne Carson, Professor of Classics, New York University, MacArthur Award Winner "Cassandra Float Can"

Event Date: 
Monday, May 15, 2006 - 14:30

Sometimes I feel I spend my whole life rewriting the same page. It is a page with Essay On Translation at the top and then quite a few paragraphs of good strong prose. These begin to break down towards the middle of the page. Syntax decays. Perforations appear. By the end there is not much left but a few flakes of language roaming near the margins, looking as if they want to become an art of pure shape. Here is another fact about me. Whenever I am engaged on a translation project I experience continually, offside my vision, a sensation of veils flying up. As brightness blows the rising wide cold rush the skull. I’ve come to call the sensation Cassandra because I first noticed it one day in school when I was reading a passage of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon – the passage where Cassandra cries out OTOTOTOI POPOI DA! etc. This cry is famous - it leads into 300 lines of vision and prophecy in which Cassandra tells the past and future of the house of Atreus, including the fact of her own death. At the midpoint of this telling she utters these lines: Behold no longer my oracle out from veils shall be glancing like a newly married bride but as brightness blows the rising sun open it will rush my oceans forward onto light – a grief more deep than me. (1178-83) What is it like to be a prophet? Everywhere Cassandra ran she found she was already there. Everywhere Cassandra ran the glue was coming up off the edge of the page and, when she pulled at it, this page was underneath, this page on which I am telling you that everywhere Cassandra ran she found she could float. Poet, essayist, and renowned translator from Ancient Greek Anne Carson is the celebrated author of numerous works, from her innovative early classical study Eros the Bittersweet, through recent works including The Beauty of the Husband, Men in the Off Hours, and, most recently, Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera, she has been presenting a unique hybrid work, ranging intellectually from the archaic to the stunningly contemporary. Ms. Carson’s translations of the complete works of Sappho were published as If Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho. This event was co-sponsored by the Poetry Center, SFSU.