When I was in grad school and got my first opportunity to teach Creative Writing, one of the very first things I did was draft several of my classmates to stop by throughout the semester and give guest-readings or lectures on their area of expertise. To prove a point about how different genres and art forms can compliment one another, I always made a point of asking how an interest in poetry can benefit work in other genres, especially since many of my students happened to be more interested in fiction or songwriting than poetry. One of my draftees, a cool guy by the name of Jake Boyd (who also introduced me to the blistering blues of R.L. Burnside), had the perfect one-word answer: “Music.”
People who are new to poetry are often puzzled and intimidated by free verse, by the obvious but etheric range afforded by non-traditional arrangements of sound. But there’s hardly a single person on the planet who doesn’t have a relationship with at least some genre of music, meaning that sound—like mathematics—is something of a universal language, in spite of how we quibble over dialects.
Well, if sound is the basis of music, and music is the basis of poetry, there aren’t many musicians who can play better than Anya Silver. Consider these first five lines of Cape May at Dusk:
At the cape, I stood alone on a platform
watching swans gather, mallards and herons,
and below me, a single hare, feeding itself
in the twilight on soft, newly mown grass.
I don’t know why I’m still alive.
The alliteration and assonance in those lines is as masterful as it is subtle, especially when you consider that it’s quite possibly a build-up to the starkness of that fifth line. Then you have poems like Blue Hydrangeas, which are so energetically lyrical that they practically demand to be read out loud. Put simply, Anya Silver’s poetry isn’t just smart and well-crafted; it’s also fun. Consider How to Hula Hoop, a seemingly simple and light-hearted poem that ends up telling us something profound about human nature.
Even when the subject matter of a particular poem is a tad dark or melancholic (or socially complex, like To the Man Who Yelled “Hey, Baby!” At Me), there remains this strong undercurrent of lyrical joy. Our readers may also recognize Silver from her fantastic interview series with another Atticus alum, Sara Hughes. We’re glad to have Silver back with us because her poems are fun to read, fun to hear, and, well, I’m damn glad they exist.
Anya Krugovoy Silver is a poet living in Macon, Georgia. She is the author of three books of poetry, The Ninety-Third Name of God (2010), I Watched You Disappear (2014), and From Nothing (forthcoming in September 2016), all published by the Louisiana State University Press. Her work has been published in many literary magazines, including Image, The Harvard Review, The Georgia Review, Five Points, Crazyhorse, New Ohio Review, Witness, The Christian Century, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, and many others. Her work will be included in Best American Poetry 2016. Her poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” in Ted Kooser’s syndicated column, “American Life in Poetry,” as an Academy of American Poets’ poem of the day, and on Poetry Daily. She was named Georgia Author of the Year/Poetry for 2015. She currently teaches in the English Department at Mercer University. She shares her life with her husband, son, and cockapoo. Since 2004, she has been living and thriving with inflammatory breast cancer.
For photo credits, click through to the poem.