Anne Carson’s poem overlooks Boston Harbor alongside the ICA

First Chaldic Oracle

There is something you should know.
And the right way to know it
is by a cherrying of your mind.

Because if you press your mind towards it
and try to know
that thing

as you know a thing,
you will not know it.
It comes out of red

with kills on both sides,
it is scrap, it is nightly,
it kings your mind.

No. Scorch is not the way
to know
that thing you must know.

But use the hum
of your wound
and flamepit out everything

right to the edge
of that thing you should know.
The way to know it

is not by staring hard.
But keep chiselled,
keeping Praguing the eye

of your soul and reach—
mind empty
towards that thing you should know

until you get it.
that thing you should know.
Because it is out there (orchid) outside your
and, it is

–Anne Carson

This poem has been mounted outside the ICA, overlooking Boston Harbor. What a setting for an unforgettable poem.

While the poem stands extraordinarily on its own, here are a few comments about it that feather Carson’s nest ever so gently.

From a piece by Catherine Joyce in Arc Poetry Magazine:

In “First Chaldaic Oracle”, a poetic manifesto, Anne Carson examines the relentless pursuit of what remains forever out of reach. Her questing but playful voice, sounding through the architectural layering of tercets, captures the continual striving toward meaning, the poet’s elusive, shape-shifting art.

The images proliferate, tantalize, elude definition—and yet we sense there is something vital here, something passionate yet annihilating, overlooked yet liminal, even preconscious—so essential it trumps your mind, possessing, ruling, dissolving any subjective state. Carson drives deep to planes of reality one intuits but cannot name—beyond self, beyond world, hypnotic.

Only by going beyond our prescriptive borders of ‘self’ and ‘other’ can the rare, the mysterious, the unnamed—beyond all our definitions—be found.

And from On Rationalizing and Oranges, an essay by Kea Trevett published in Mercer Street:

So much of real life lies between the lines of rational thought. The bigger questions are not the ones that can be answered on paper. They are what we tend to overlook or leave out—ideas that life suggests, hints at…The facts are word-bound, but the deeper truth, the confusion, the sticky messiness lies in the grey areas between the words…By trusting our intuition, by accepting the absurd, sometimes inexplicable reality of reality, we might find that the conventional boundaries of logic and reason only take us so far: sometimes they stifle true understanding. This is not to say that rational analysis never leads to truth…Carson urges us to see that sometimes, in pursuit of knowing a thing, a “cherrying” of the mind prepares us most.