Rebecca Gambale, Festival Assistant
Teresa Carson’s Elegy for the Floater is an example of how poetry can help an individual to process and connect with a difficult past, while transforming the painful experiences into eloquent words on the page. This tension between pain and beauty is where poetry is made, and Carson wants to look you in the eye and show you that. She wants to remind you that after pain, art is possible.
In the book’s opening poems, the reader is quickly aware of Carson’s brother’s suicide, and through this hardship, Carson creates an intimacy with her audience. She speaks to the reader as her confidante, admitting “Listen even closer. I have to whisper this part: / his death was a relief.” We are given glimpses of her difficult childhood, born one child out of ten; we are privy to the rape which she kept a secret for so many years of her life.
Carson is dabbling in alchemy through her poems: they make the unflinchingly real undoubtedly poetic. She rallies against silence by taking the formative and often harrowing experiences of her past and turning them into brave and unabashed retellings, digging up the very real stuff that some would repress. There is never any doubt that the poet is the speaker in Elegy for the Floater. Throughout the book, the complex feelings of these experiences take shape, and all the while there is never a sense of hopelessness or a cry for pity. There is a great humanness to which anyone can relate as she brings the reader into her most private stories.
It is no surprise that Carson’s work would translate seamlessly to realistic scenes on stage – Carson is a master of creating a connection between art and reality in her work. She is a graduate of the Sarah Lawrence MFA program, where she completed in both Poetry and Theatre. She has since adapted her second book, The Congress of Human Oddities, into a play. She has taken pain and, through her talent for drama and the well-crafted word, created art.
Raised in Jersey City, Carson has lived all of her life in Hudson County, New Jersey. She currently teaches at the College of New Rochelle. She worked in non-traditional-for-women technical jobs for a local phone company until retiring in 2003. She began her MFA shortly thereafter. Her book, Elegy for the Floater, is a part of CavanKerry’s LaurelBooks, a group of poetry and prose collections which confront serious psychological and/or physical illness. The titles in the series are part of a program where authors, physicians and psychologists hold panel discussions on the medical issues in the texts in order to raise awareness.
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The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark is October 7 – 10
For more information, visit the Poetry website.