Anna Ross is the author of If a Storm (selected by Julianna Baggott for the 2012 Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize for Poetry) and Hawk Weather (winner of the New Women’s Voices Prize from Finishing Line Press). Her poetry and criticism have appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Guernica, Barrow Street, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Southwest Review, Salamander, Southern Poetry Review, The American Reader, and Boston Review, and she is the recipient of fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Grub Street. A visiting poetry editor for Salamander, she teaches in the Writing, Literature & Publishing at Emerson College and is Poet in Residence at Stonehill College. She lives in Dorchester, MA with her husband, daughter, and son.
Statement of Poetics
I once took a
seminar with the poet Marie Howe, who told us that our best poems are smarter
than we are, a statement that struck me immediately as both familiar and true
and an ideal toward which I still write. Another way to say this is that I
write mainly out of bewilderment or as a method of discovery. But I also write
out of joy that language—the shaping of sound, which is itself a physical
experience—can be that method. Thus, discovery seeking involves the body as
well as the mind—we learn through our senses and then transmute that knowledge
into further sensory experience. Watching my children learn to shape sound into
meaning, and play with all of the surprising and sometimes shocking noises
language provides, convinces me (or confirms my belief) that poetry must be felt
as well as understood. This is something I remember clearly from first reading
Dickinson and Yeats—those “Boots of Lead,” the “widening gyre”—too early to
grasp the poetic or linguistic implications of their work. But I loved the
sonic explosions and links they were able to make with language, and when I’m
writing, I’m often chasing an accumulation of sounds towards understanding.
My first book, If a Storm, narrated the internal and external landscape of a marriage and the creation of a family. Lately, I’ve been preoccupied in my work with the pervasive effects of violence in our country and society, and in particular children’s experience of this violence, as well as the racial and class divisions that often underpin it. This is at least partly due to living and raising my kids in an inner city neighborhood. However, I don’t think you have to live where I live or have children in order to feel anxiety about, or at least disoriented by, the mounting statistics and increasingly frequent headlines involving kids and guns. As a subject, violence—Yeats’ “blood-dimmed tide”—involves a perpetual tangle of voices, motives, and experiences. I realize that in attempting to write about this, I’m hoping toward that “smarter” (wiser?) poem, one that leads me with its music toward sense.
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