North American Scholar
CARRIER, Constance Virginia
B.A. Smith College, 1929; M.A. (in English), Trinity College, 1940.
- Professional Experience:
Teacher Latin, English & French in public schools in New Britain & West Hartford, CT. 1930-70; insert. classics workshop Tufts U., 1967-78; McDowell Colony Fellow, 1955-68; Lamont Prize for first book, American Academy of Poets, 1955.
Constance Carrier spent most of her life in her hometown, New Britain CT. She graduated from New Britain High School before attending Smith College, where she received her bachelor's degree in 1929. It was as a Smith sophomore that Carrier first formed her strong interest in poetry, influenced by the works of Emily Dickinson and Louise Bogan. "I wanted to follow in those poets' footsteps", she told her literary executor, Karla Hammond, in 1980.
After briefly considering a career as an architect, Carrier embarked on what was to be a 40-year teaching career, especially at New Britain High School, in the fields of Latin, French and English. In 1940 she took an M.A. in English at Trinity College in Hartford. Inspired by her creative writing professor, Morse Allen, she shortly afterward started writing poetry for publication. She travelled several times abroad, first to Iceland and Russia; later to Italy, Greece and Turkey.
In 1954, Carrier's The Middle Voice, still as an unpublished manuscript, won the inaugural Lamont Poetry Selection from the American Academy of Poets for best first book; Louise Bogan was among the prize jurors. A second book, The Angled Road (1973)—the title is taken from a poem of Dickinson—received further critical acclaim. Carrier also published widely, in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Christian Science Monitor, Ploughshares, and elsewhere—including the Phi Beta Kappa publication The American Scholar. As a poet, she received fellowships at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough NH (where she focused on translating Latin) and Yaddo (1975, 1978) at Saratoga Springs. She also conducted summer workshops at Wesleyan and (in Classics) Tufts universities.
Carrier received national attention also as translator of Latin verse. She was the author or co-author of seven books of translations, most importantly Poems of Propertius (1963) and Poems of Tibullus (1968), for Indiana University Press, and was a contributing translator for The Complete Comedies of Terence (1974) and (posthumously) Plautus: The Comedies I and III (1995). Said one reviewer of Carrier's Tibullus, "at times one has the feeling that some of the vitality comes from her" as translator. She also compiled workbooks for teaching Aesop to Latin students. Carrier's latest works included a collaboration with Dorothy MacLaren on a Latin and English text of Aesop's Fables, and a book of her own poetry on the Salem witchcraft trials—which saw her ancestor Martha Carrier (born 1669) hanged in 1692. Carrier considered the work of translation and that of writing poetry to lie on a continuum. The latter "is like translating from another language, but you are translating from something much more ephemeral, and you want to be as faithful to that as you would be to the 'translatee'."
WhAmWomen 9 (1975-6) 139; Trinity Reporter (Trinity University), spring 1992 p. 56 (obituary); The Poetry Center at Smith College: Constance Carrier '29 [www.smith.edu/poetrycenter/wp/constance-carrier-29]; "Constance Carrier at Yaddo", Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College Libraries [www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/yaddo/carrier.html]
- Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr. and (notes) T. Corey Brennan