On Friday, in the Moore Building, a night after poetry, dance, and music came together in the suffocatingly intense performance of NOX, poetry, dance, and sculpture locked arms for STACKS, a collaboration between poet Anne Carson, Merce Cunningham Dance Company choreographer Jonah Bokaer, and sculptor Peter Cole.
During the performance, Carson read her poem “STACKS” from the second floor as dancers on the first floor navigated, rearranged, tore down, tossed, kicked, and wore the hundreds of cardboard boxes that Cole uses in his sculpture.
In the extreme context of Carson’s poetry, STACKS was far lighter and funnier than NOX, a meditation on the death of a brother. Carson’s deadpan delivery (“From the Phoenicians, the Greeks stole the alphabet, added a few letters, and sat down to write the classics of Western Civilization”) often drew laughter from the audience, whereas on Thursday night, during NOX, it had led listeners inexorably to the precipice of despair.
Carson, I believe, wore the same outfit on both nights, but the two performances were different in almost every other way. The notable exception, of course, was Carson’s poetry, which shone brilliantly on Thursday and Friday in equal measure. “A sentence afloat will you listen growing old by its sound in a fraction . . . ” Yes, we will listen.