We caught up with the poet, Hans Anderson, to ask him some questions about his writing, about poetry’s place in contemporary society, and the poet’s role in the literary community.
Dock Street Press: One of our editors found a poem of yours in a lit. journal, Pacifica Literary Review, a few months ago. He brought it back to the office and raved, not only about your incredibly Scandinavian name, but also this wonderful poem of yours in this new review. I’m wondering, what is poetry’s roles in contemporary society? Does it still have a place in popular culture? Is it antiquated in any way?
Hans Anderson: It seems like there is a debate about poetry’s importance or role once every six months. Someone will write a ‘poetry is no longer relevant, modern poetry is insular and for poets’ article (there was one in Harper’s this month, there was one in The Washington Post in January) and then a bunch of people — who are mostly in the literary community — respond by saying ‘poetry is important and not just for people with MFAs’. The fact that this debate continues, for me at least, means that poetry is still significant on some level. Aside from it’s many deaths and rebirths, poetry is in flux, poetry is very pliable. In the end, it’s incredibly adaptive. You just have to look at how New York School poets and language poets have changed poetry to reflect the context in which they live. Poetry explores how we interact with our world, how we use language and how language changes — and perhaps poetry’s language is only for other poets. But that says something about the multiple dialogues that are going on in our world and the isolated nature of these dialogues.
DSP: Are you writing prose, or mainly poetry?
HA: I’m writing mostly poetry. I work as a radio producer so I write scripts all day — which really makes you think about how people use language in conversation, and it trains you to simplify your ideas. But there are also a lot of rules when it comes to writing for the radio so to come home and not have those rules or have a different set of rules and to write in a way that embraces physical space and sound — is something that I really enjoy.
DSP: Who are you reading these days? Who are your influences?
HA: I am in love with someone named Jack Levine. I don’t know who this person is, but I’ve found a few poems online and they’re amazing! I’m also reading the online review H_NGM_N. In terms of influences, I am a big fan of Robert Creeley. Also many of The New York School poets. I finally like John Ashbury after trying for about four years to enjoy his work — in the end it took a lot of time (which I had after graduating from college) to understand Ashbury’s poems. I think Matthew Zapruder and the way that his poems progress in this logical but not wholly explainable way is amazing.
DSP: Your poem, AT SIX I MAKE DINNER… feels distant and at times regretful. Was this piece written in a moment of personal loneliness, or is it a reflection on that trenchant moment in life when someone realizes they aren’t the person they believed they would one day be?
HA: That’s an interesting observation because I don’t remember feeling lonely or disappointed when I wrote that poem. But when I read it again, those feelings are undeniably there. I wrote this poem when I was living in Seattle, which is where I grew up and I didn’t really leave for the first 22 years of my life. I had no idea how disconnected from other people I was at that point in my life. I was very introverted, I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I was stuck in this city that I wasn’t particularity happy in. In all honesty, at six I did get home and I would make dinner for myself and listen to All Things Considered. But I thought I was fine because I had been doing this for the last three years of my life and it was very normal. It’s interesting that I subconsciously expressed unhappiness in this poem — even if I never outwardly acknowledged that. At Six was also inspired by this photo collection by Chris Jordan called Midway: Message from the Gyre. There are these pictures of ocean birds who would eat so much trash floating in the ocean that their stomachs would explode. And it just made me think about how I was living in this one place but my actions were affecting other places I had never been to. There was this isolation of how large the world was and how interconnected it was.
DSP: Your poem in Pacifica Literary Review, GRANNY SMITH, seemed to deal with a version of seclusion. A strange POV, a Them v. Me type of vibe, do you find the theme of isolation running throughout much of your work?
HA: I also wrote this poem when I was living in Seattle. Most of the isolation or outsider POV wasn’t overtly planned in Granny Smith even though that is where much of the tension in the poem comes from — this sort of strange interaction and stunted character development comes from a very specific time in my life. Since then, I moved to Denver then New Hampshire and now I live in Washington DC and my poems have been much less about isolation and more a conflict of space — how we navigate new areas. I miss the lonely isolation poems I wrote in Seattle, though.