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Constance Carrier at Yaddo

Constance Carrier (1908-1991) graduated from Smith College in 1929. She found Louise Bogan's Body of This Death in the Neilson Library stacks when she was a sophomore and read the poetry book from cover to cover. Bogan and Emily Dickinson inspired Carrier to become a poet. "I wanted to follow in those poets' footsteps," she told her literary executor, Karla Hammond, in 1980.

After graduating from Smith, Carrier taught Latin, French, and English at public high schools in New Britain and West Hartford, Connecticut, 1930-1970. She completed an M.A. in English at Trinity College in 1940. Inspired by her creative writing professor, Morse Allen, Carrier began publishing her poetry in literary journals, including The New Yorker.

Louise Bogan, Body of This Death. New York: Robert M. McBride, 1923.

Constance Carrier, "Turning Point," typescript and printed version in The New Yorker, 13 September 1947.


Constance Carrier, "Journey," holograph drafts, no date.


Constance Carrier, The Middle Voice, 1955.

Carrier's first book, The Middle Voice, received the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets in 1954. Judges for the Lamont included Louise Bogan, Rolfe Humphries, Randall Jarrell, May Sarton, and Mark Van Doren. Carrier was the first poet to be awarded the Lamont. The book begins with the poem "Journey," which is about "moving between two areas [. . .] of being half in one world, one milieu, and half in another."

Sylvia Plath, Address book, no date.

Constance Carrier's contact information appears in Sylvia Plath's address book. Plath's and Carrier's poems were included in the Best Poems of 1959, along with verse by Ted Hughes, May Sarton, Anne Sexton, Mark Van Doren, and others. Plath may have first seen Constance Carrier's poems published in The New Yorker or in other periodicals and newspapers, such as The Christian Science Monitor. Carrier's The Middle Voice was published during Plath's senior year at Smith. Plath tried unsuccessfully to win the Lamont award for her own first collection of verse while she was at Yaddo.

      

Constance Carrier, "Elegy." Printed version from the Smith Alumnae Quarterly, 58:1 (Nov. 1966); Best Poems of 1959: Borestone Mountain Poetry Awards, 1960; Constance Carrier, "Women in Myth" Smith Alumnae Quarterly 70:1 (Nov. 1978)

Constance Carrier, The Angled Road. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1973.

Carrier was also a lecturer at Tufts University. She taught a classics workshop in the summers, 1968-1980s. Her favorite character was Orpheus, chief among poets and musicians in Greek mythology, who not only visited the Underworld but also returned. Both Plath and Carrier were active alumnae and published their poetry in the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.

In addition to Carrier's second book of verse, The Angled Road, she published translations of Poems of Propertius (1963) and Poems of Tibullus (1968) for Indiana University Press, and was a contributing translator of The Complete Comedies of Terence (1974). She also compiled workbooks for teaching Aesop to Latin students. Most of Carrier's translations were done while she was a resident of the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Constance Carrier, Witchcraft Poems: Salem, 1692. With wood engravings by John De Pol, 1988.

Carrier was descended from Martha Carrier, one of the women convicted of witchcraft and hung on Gallows Hill, Old Salem Village, in August 1692. Carrier first read about her ancestor in Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown," in which Cotton Mather calls Martha Carrier "that rampant hag, that arrant Queen of Hell." Witchcraft Poems: Salem, 1692 was Carrier's last collection of verse. Some of the poems for this collection were written while she was at Yaddo in 1975 and 1978.

Constance Carrier to Doris Cook, signed autograph postcards, 5 October 1978 and 6 November 1978.

Constance Carrier to Doris Cook, signed autograph letter, 11 May 1975.

Constance Carrier was a guest at Yaddo from 7 April to 3 May 1975. She was assigned two rooms in West House and could be reached on the py telephone between 8:15-8:45 A.M. or 6:30-7:30 P.M. when she was at breakfast or dinner. She sent her friend Marilyn Ziffrin a picture postcard of the mansion at Yaddo to give her "an idea of the local opulence" and later exclaimed, "holy crow, how they feed you!"

Carrier played scrabble every night with the painter Hyde Solomon. Together they visited the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York. Carrier wrote observations on porches, which she told Ziffrin, may be "a poem or notes for the watebasket." Domestic architecture was one of Carrier's passions. She also started a new poem on "Tituba, the Salem Jamaican slave," which was later collected in her Witchcraft Poems.

Constance Carrier to Marilyn Ziffrin, signed autograph post cards, 11 April-4 May 1975.

After returning from her first visit to Yaddo, Carrier wrote to her friend Doris Cook '33: "I haven't had a TV to look at for a month?they're not encouraged at Yaddo."

The secretary at Yaddo called Carrier "to say that there had been a cancellation" and invited her for September-October 1978. This second visit to Yaddo was a great success. Carrier "got a number of things underway" and found the dozen residents "congenial" and the autumn weather "divine."

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