Poet Of The Week

Scott Edward Anderson

     October 14–20, 2013

Scott Edward Anderson is the author of Fallow Field (Aldrich Press, 2013) and Walks in Nature’s Empire (The Countryman Press, 1995). He has been a Concordia Fellow at the Millay Colony for the Arts and received both the Nebraska Review Award and the Aldrich Emerging Poets Award. His poetry has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Anon, The Cortland Review, CrossConnect, Earth’s Daughters, Isotope, La Petite Zine, Many Mountains Moving, Nebraska Review, Poetica, River Oak Review, Slant and Terrain, among other publications. He was a founding editor of Ducky Magazine, writes The Green Skeptic blog and blogs about poetry on his website.


               Not beauty, or ugliness, either, but a disturbing
               kind of satisfaction.

                              –Philip Johnson

Think of a watershed as a river’s neighborhood;
the running stream, a kind of architecture–

Find the stream that forms the watershed in which you live;
hear the water running (if it is frozen, listen through the ice).

The architect finds such harmony
in the precise moment a corner is designed–
tension, productivity, and grace.

Hear it? Running water, then silence, then water running.

The architect Frank Gehry achieves
a “double sense of space”; like a watershed,
his buildings are formed by what flows in and out–

Follow the stream, run the watershed,
chase the flash-and-glamour of fish scales
underwater: spawning entire new dynamics of space.

The way a storm moving through a valley
redirects energy back into a stream.

Gehry asked himself,“Why not do fish?”
A lasting design, form linked to function.

So he did fish. Fish scale chairs, fish lamps.
And then buildings, buildings
that seemed to swim around their own corners, seemed to spawn.

Scale the banks, river walls, riverrun
–erosion and construction–

titanium trapezoids billowing at the end of Bilbao’s streets,
more like spun-sugar than shaped metal.

Run the river toward something.
There’s tension in productivity and grace.

Perhaps this double sense of space is sense of place:
No matter where we are, we are always in a watershed.

–From Fallow Field, Aldrich Press, 2013

Tell us about the making of this poem.

This poem was among the first in a sequence of poems called “Dwelling: An Ecopoem,” which had as its origin Martin Heidegger’s essay “Building Dwelling Thinking.” Poet Alison Hawthorne Deming has called this sequence “a phenomenology of how we live on the Earth.”

The entire sequence is actually three parts: poems on the concept of dwelling and our relationship with the ecosystems and other species with which we share this planet; a series of prose “questions,” loosely modeled on The Book of Questions by the Egyptian Jewish writer Edmund Jabès further exploring the concepts; and a series of “small dwellings” that trace the etymological roots of the verb “to dwell.”

I believe poetry is the most direct language with which to approach our place in the world and reconnect us to nature. By nature, I mean not only the natural world, but also the built environment; not only the processes and causal powers of the physical world, but our immediate experience of the spiritual and the non-human.

I’ve long been interested in architecture and how it shapes our environment. And some of the most interesting architects to me are those with a very strong relationship with the natural world–either adverse or propitious–including Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Gustav Stickley, Antoni Gaudi, Bucky Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright, Toyo Ito and Maya Lin.

Gehry is particularly complicated, both because of the materials he uses–titanium, which is heavily mined–and the way he uses the shapes and forms of the natural world in an unusual juxtaposition to those materials. I was curious about what I perceived to be fluidity in much of his later work and that led me to some of his original designs for furniture, jewelry and sculpture using a fish motif.

And the fish ultimately led me back to the concept of a watershed and to the final line and realization that “We are always in a watershed.”

That line seems to sum up our relationship to our environment pretty well, and we’d be better served if we understood what that means.

What are you working on right now?

Promoting my new book of poems, FALLOW FIELD. I have a bunch of poems I wrote last April during National Poetry Month that need my attention soon, and another big poem and prose project I put aside some years ago and need to get back to work on. I also have another book of non-fiction that is in proposal development with my agent.

What’s a good day for you?

A good day is spent with the love of my life, Samantha, doing whatever we want, with or without our kids (we have 6 between us), and always involves some poetry, cooking a good meal, drinking some wine, eating chocolate, plenty of coffee, and a whole lotta love. And, these days, exploring Brooklyn, our home.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I returned to Brooklyn nearly two years ago and live in Park Slope, although I spend part of every week in Philadelphia, where my kids live. I lived in Carroll Gardens and Bay Ridge years ago. I love Park Slope because it feels like a small town and we’re close to the Park. I love city life, but I need to be close to its nature, too.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

Samantha and I got engaged this spring and when we were looking for a venue for our wedding, we stumbled upon the Green Building in Carroll Gardens. It used to be a brass foundry. When she sent me their website to check out, I noticed the building is located on the corner of Union and Bond. What better place for a wedding? It felt like the Brooklyn gods were shining on us.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

Auden, Whitman, Marianne Moore, David Ignatow and Ada Limón. Auden for his variety; Whitman, his YAWP; Moore for her eccentricity; Ignatow for his mundane humor; and Ada for the beauty of her language and vision.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

Greenlight, definitely, for the selection and the layout. Community Bookstore in my hood. Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights, which has a great selection of used poetry books. I’m looking forward to that new poetry-only bookstore, Berl’s. Why? Because we need more bookstores full of poetry. (And the Grolier Bookshop is too far away from Brooklyn.)

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn?

Prospect Park. I do a lot of my composing in my head, especially while walking. The park is perfect for wandering. Some of the poems I wrote in April when I was writing a poem each day were composed on my iPhone on the 2 or 3 train. As for reading, I love reading in bed to my fiancée; she falls asleep whenever I start reading to her, but I just keep going.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Sharlene’s on Flatbush (a new favorite), the Farmer’s Market in Grand Army Plaza, Little Neck, the 4th Avenue Pub (an old favorite), and of course 61 Local, which I learned about from the Brooklyn Poets YAWP. Our kitchen is one of my favorite places in Brooklyn. I love cooking in our kitchen. My son Jasper says my meals there are “on point AND on point.”

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

Ada Limón’s Sharks in the Rivers, Robert Wrigley’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Alfred Corn’s Tables, Frederick Seidel’s Poems 1959-2009 and Kathleen Jamie’s The Overhaul.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate food,
And what I love to cook you should love to eat,
For every meal I prepare cheers me as good
     for you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

My kids got their faith from their fa-ther:
Red Sox fans, not fans of the Dodgers.
Whether living in Alaska, Philly or Brooklyn
And tho’ we show respect when Mo’ comes out the pen,
It’s the “B” and scarlet socks that we’re love-in
And those gold black and white ones once worn by Robby–
Bobby Orr, y’all, to me as a kid he was bigger than Biggie.
When we traded him to Blackhawks that was a sin.
Chi’town didn’t know Bobby and they don’t know Jack.

Why Brooklyn?

My love, Samantha, is here and wherever my love is, that’s my home.