Visit to an Extinct City



Visit to an Extinct City, first in the series The Argument of Time, reflects on the ruins of Ostia Antica









Deerbrook Editions,


Rome’s harbor town, Ostia Antica, the other well-preserved ancient city in Italy, has long paled beside Pompeii, whose high drama and fiery demise fixed its place in literature and the popular imagination. Not so for the port city on the Tiber. But Teresa Carson’s new Ostian poem comes to us in sixteen cantos, in English and Italian, as welcome as it is rare.

She takes us with her, on a revelatory first visit to the site, preternaturally attuned to all its discomforts and discoveries. Immediately we’re immersed with her amidst a haunted, antique landscape.

Step after step through this long afternoon of a poem, Carson works her alchemy—from broken bricks and crumbling concrete, intently observed—to meditations on the synecdoche of ruins, to contemplations, through her eyes, of loss and decay, on human mortality and the accidents of survival: ‘Layers of dirt turn into layers of time.’

 Visit to an Extinct City holds a fresh, personal lens to a seldom-seen, venerable ghost-town and archaeological site. It casts a rueful glance at the folly and profundity of ‘historical reconstruction’—it raises an eyebrow towards guidebooks, tourism and what we think we do when we travel abroad—and with both hands, unexpectedly, it bestows us with a kind of metaphysical vademecum.

—Joanne M. Spurza, Associate Professor, Program of Classics, Hunter College of the City University of New York