Loose Ends by Ann Elizabeth Carson

In the uncertainty of our times, Ann Elizabeth Carson’s new book, Loose Ends, with its evocative poetry and prose, manages to ground the reader in a place of reflection and appreciation for the wonders of life. As Carson describes her relationship and synchronicity with nature, readers will feel their own senses being nurtured. 

The book opens with “The Risk of Remembrance,” introducing the poet and her state of being at 93, contemplating the realities of existence and the risk of diving into memories. She affirms that as long as the magic of nature stirs her senses, rendering her speechless, she will be wanting to tell you, share the experience of her life, excavate life’s long fact-fiction dance in images . . . .

In the next section: “In Being/Continuous with the Universe,” Carson’s acute awareness of the world around her is relayed in glorious sensory images and sensations: 

the tree tops dusted 
with the yellow crinkle of their passage
to the coming cold. 
the crunch of huge leaf piles
holding children’s laughter 
as they kick, shuffle, toss
and bury themselves
in autumn’s bounty
the green froth of budding willow trees.

It is not a mere observation that Carson writes of, but of communion and communication with nature:

we need to learn each other’s language
Our hopes for each other 
carried on each other’s breaths 

Carson’s heartbreakingly beautiful images evoke the symbiosis between her and the world around her, a world that captivates her, leaves her in awe: 

the clouds are turning as the world turns,
as shadow and I turn with earth,
around the struggling sun.

She sums it up with these words:

What can I give you but wonder, 
and my respectful witness.

Carson looks upon birds and animals with curiosity, fascination, and pleasure, as if they are part of her family. Her keen and delighted observations evoke an awakening in the reader. 

In the section Closer to the Bone, Carson’s awe and deep appreciation of nature is affected by current earthly concerns: covid and climate change, a time of hand washing and hand wringing. She reflects the collective unease of many today: 

My body shakes in tune with Earth’s upheavals.

Carson needs the winter snow shovel to bury the memories of all I have lost in eight months of possibilities. In “Elder Care,” the reader feels Carson’s anguish during the never-ending, mind-numbing grey isolation of a pandemic winter. 

Here I am, with my every day sadness 
and the long grief 
that walks beside me, ordinary now
Loved ones . . . witness
your lonesome struggle
burnt into muscles   bone   heart—

In the section “It’s All There,” Carson reflects on her life, her experiences, her memories, her perspectives, employing a literary structure that powerfully portrays both historical events (in prose) and personal experience (in poetry). What is a life worth? 

She looks back to the year of her birth, 1929, and the tumultuous events she has lived through: the deprivations of the Great Depression, the years-long polio pandemic from her childhood to adulthood, the invasion of Hitler on Poland, the declaration of war on Germany by France and Britain, the terrible physical, emotional and mental damage of a six years war and its harsh, lingering aftermath that shaped her life. 

Carson recalls being in Amsterdam for the anniversary of the WWII liberation of Holland, deeply affected by the sight of the statues of children who were killed in reprisal to their parents’ underground resistance during the war:

I sway in time, 
face washed in tears, to music of loss and renewal.

After giving the reader a glimpse of her journey through time, the decades in a nutshell up to the present, Carson ponders today’s reality:

History is repeated
in today's boatloads of refugees
from invaded countries waiting—
and drowning—offshore; the thousands
of women and children—and orphaned children
fleeing Russian genocide in Ukraine in ’22

What can one very old woman do? she asks, reflecting the helplessness of humanity in the face of Russia’s attacks. She ultimately concludes that although history repeats itself, there must be hope, a “Re-Discovery” of the wonder of nature, the vital connection 

to where I can speak
with air   with trees   with stones
and water 

This is what grounds the author, comforts her, nurtures her, one day at a time, satisfying her soul’s yearning for calm and peace.

 I am alive for today. 
I turn to wonder 

Accompanying Carson through the seasons as if on a peaceful walk with her, we are invited into her world with her reflections, memories, and musings, and as a result, we, too, experience the sensory wonders around us. She makes us acutely aware of the patterns of life, the mundane details and the urgent particulars of living that can sometimes overtake us with not remembering the small joys . . . .

Loose Ends does indeed awaken the reader to the small and big joys of life, the yearning to be in balance, and the need for self-care. In reflecting on her many memories, whether of assembling a Christmas tree with family, of her trips to Kensington Market in her early married life in Toronto, experiencing the kindness of an Uber driver, or spending time with her six-year-old great-granddaughter during the pandemic, Carson impresses upon the reader that these times are to be treasured.

In the section “Consolation: Being,” Carson emphasizes the importance to 

remind myself to take moments
of stillness. 
a time to be quiet
still enough
to allow the flight of pen on paper. 

Loose Ends, with the author’s poignant observations of nature and humanity, is Ann Elizabeth Carson’s triumphant flight of pen on paper, letting the light in to awaken our senses to the moments of our lives to be cherished. With the addition of her enchanting artwork opening every section, Loose Ends is an exquisite legacy.

Born in 1929 in Toronto, Ann Elizabeth Carson began writing and publishing in high school, continued during her undergraduate university years and while raising a family of four children. In 1970, she earned a Master’s in Adult Education and Counselling at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and worked for many years as a counsellor, supervisor and instructor at York University.

A long-time summer resident on Manitoulin Island, Ann Elizabeth continues to write, sculpt and read from her work in Toronto and on Manitoulin Island.

To purchase Loose Ends, please email Allan Briesmaster at info@aeolushouse.com
OR Ann Carson at anncars@gmail.com

Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli was born in Calabria, Italy, and immigrated to Canada when she was three. La Brigantessa (Inanna, 2018) garnered a 2019 Gold IPPY Award for Historical Fiction and was a finalist for two Canadian literary awards. Pigeon Soup & Other Stories (Inanna, 2021) was a Finalist in the 2021 American BookFest Best Book Awards and the 2022 International Book Awards. Rosanna also has five novels published with Harlequin and two children’s books published with Pajama Press.