The Beauty Of The Husband is an essay on Keats’s idea that beauty is truth, and is also the story of a marriage. It is told in 29 tangos. A tango (like a marriage) is something you have to dance to the end.
The book, in fact, takes as its overt theme what has been the ever more insistent subtext of Carson's prior writing -- the 'dilemma of desire' and the ways in which intellectual discernment (a familiarity, say, with 'the passive periphrastic' tenses in Latin) and erotic taste often pull in opposite directions ... Carson's willingness to implicate herself in the discussion at hand -- her refusal to edit out the personal, even at its most pathetically lovelorn -- has become more obvious with each successive book, and The Beauty of the Husband takes her farther out on the precarious limb she has claimed as her own ... There is far less of the brainy braggadocio that has marked her previous work, especially if one looks beyond the tap-dancing around the Keatsian equation of Truth and Beauty that is invoked in epigraphs preceding each section ... I don't think there has been a book since Robert Lowell's Life Studies that has advanced the art of poetry quite as radically as Anne Carson is in the process of doing.
Many poets are struggling to overcome the self-conflating claustrophobia of the personal lyric. In Carson’s work, we can watch her discover ways of propelling a long, strong current through a set of poems, like the continuity in an oratorio ... Carson’s lines are likewise cadenced short and long, made of snatches of conversations, conveying relationships that are sinuous, clasping and releasing ... These poems invite you not to worry but rather to submit to the dizzying intoxication of a fabulous story with its compressed cast of characters ... This is an astounding book, showing how far erudition and fluency can go in the service of emotion.
The individual poems are not long, but it was the convergence of three ideas, each engaging with a different partner in each sentence with all the fluidity of dance, that provoked an uncertainty that perhaps the poet meant the book to be read through in one session ... The dedications contain the infidelities, and the book has to be danced to the end because it shapes up as a pathology of a crumbling marriage ... Carson has always been noted for her intellectual, perhaps academic, poetics, but The Beauty of the Husband is a tour de force, even by her standards. It astonishes not for the breadth and depth of classical and historical reference we have come to expect from her, but for her scintillating interweaving of mathematics and semiotics ... This book does not so much have the cool rigidity of a steel superstructure as the predatory passion of a tango.