Nox is an epitaph in the form of a book, a facsimile of a handmade book Anne Carson wrote and created after the death of her brother. The poem describes coming to terms with his loss through the lens of her translation of 'Poem 101' by Catullus for his brother who died in the Troad. Nox is a work of poetry and memory, but arrives as a unique physical object.
... a personal, and deeply moving, meditation on the contours of absence. Nox is as much an artifact as a piece of writing. The contents arrive not between two covers but in a box about the size of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible ... The details are affecting, but [Carson] doles them out sparingly. Nox shifts between the analytic and the lyrical. Even the lexicography turns out to be surprisingly complex and moving (dictionaries hardly being tearjerkers, as a rule) ... it’s quintessential Carson. Her work has always been an exercise in reinvigorating the clichés of autobiography by refracting them through her vast knowledge of classical literature and her deadpan, self-undermining wit ... Nox is a luminous, big, shivering, discandied, unrepentant, barking web of an elegy, which is why it evokes so effectively the felt chaos and unreality of loss.
Nox is a brilliantly curated heap of scraps. It’s both an elegy and a meta-elegy, a touching portrait of a dead brother and a declaration of the impossibility of creating portraits of dead brothers ... In Nox, she treats her brother like a figure from antiquity who just happens to have grown up in the same houses she did and to have died 1,500-odd years after the fall of Rome ... Michael is both extremely specific and a kind of Everybrother ... As the accordion of Nox unfolds, its material begins to resonate across many levels. It is an elegy stuffed with elegies ... This strikes me as the secret ambition of Nox, to produce a worthy translation of Catullus 101—not merely on a line-by-line level...but in a deeper sense. Carson wants to reproduce, over the space of an entire book, the untranslatable qualities she most admires in Catullus: the passionate, slow surface; the deep festivity buried in the sorrow. She wants to reanimate dead things spoken in a dead language. 'A brother never ends,' she writes. 'I prowl him. He does not end.'
Carson...is an exceptionally daring and clever poet...and her British readership is much smaller than it should be. Although the look of Nox is very beguiling...it probably won't do much to change that. It's not exactly a companionable object. This is at once impressive, because the poem deserves the attention it demands, and a pity – because it's a deeply affecting piece of work, and everyone who has known grief will feel they can identify with at least some parts of it ... Nox is a brilliantly curated collection of fragments, which analyses and manifests the elusiveness that all human beings detect in one another, no matter how much they love them ... The deconstruction of 'Poem 101'...allows the construction of Nox. It gives it backbone, as well as a clear theme. This, like other elements of the structure, revolves around how much or how little it is possible to grasp of a person, which Carson interestingly equates with the question of translation itself ... Carson's ingenuities have breathed new energy into an ancient truth ... It's a very learned text. But it's also a very playful one, and a very moving one.