Canadian poet and classicist Anne Carson began writing and compiling Nox following the unexpected death of her brother Michael in 2000. A scrapbook epitaph, the book is Carson’s attempt to make sense of the loss of her brother, an elusive figure who had disappeared from her life long before he disappeared from the world.
A “book-in-a-box,” Nox is also a stunning and unwieldy physical object, a finger in the eye to the readers of e-readers. It exists as one long sheet, a concertinaed facsimile of Carson’s handmade book, which includes poem fragments as well as a collection of collages, family photos, and old letters. A frank and generous eulogy, Nox is a work that feels somehow hauntingly archaic and yet entirely new. It is a deeply affecting meditation on grief, and on our paradoxical desire to both seek out and turn away from the forsaken.
Here’s an elegy for Carson’s elegy, written by Malvernite Taylor Jacob Pate…
NOX: an elegy/ in a box/ for a brother/ like a scroll/ in a coffin/ mirror box/ take it out/ touch it/ damage it/ hold it in your eyes/ mirror box/ for a brother/ a sister/ melancholic/ concerned with history/ his story/ her story/ sorry/ sorry/ sad/ pictures & pages copied onto the scroll/ unroll it/ for fun/ for depth/ being dead takes a long time/ flip through it to keep your distance/ late in the night/ late in the night/ late in the night/ a starry lad/ an aperture/ a vent/ angrily/ violently/ from one place to another/ define/ explain/ as far as X is concerned/ enigma/ dark fact/ ask/ survive/ cry/ mirror box/ the phoenix mourns by shaping/ amazed at the strange things humans do/ leave behind a memory/ part of the sea/ in small white sleep mits your hands protrude/ vanish by night into nothing/ scraps/ fragments/ run away/ that dead girl/ was the love of his life/ I HAVE NEVER KNOWN A CLOSENESS LIKE THAT/ mirror box/ places in our bones, strange brother/ a tomb/ a wall in her/ this ash was a scholarly gift/ what is a voice?/ to subtract/ to take up time/ the sad one/ full of shadow/ a brother never ends/ blush/ nox/ a man is not a night/ etching/ pressure/ impression/ eraser/ for lack of a better term a windswept spirit/ he refuses/ he is in the stairwell/ he disappears/ just like him/ negotiator with the night