Dear All, is a book of moral urgency that eradicates the differences between private and public lives as it uncovers memory’s distortions and inaccuracies. Maggie Anderson negotiates the perceptions and self-deceptions we live with and, through both humor and surprise, finds a way to bear them.
“… In the enchanted plainsong of these seasoned, measured poems, the ultimate intimacy of consciousness achieves a lucidity so deeply truthful that it becomes the mythic.” (Eleanor Wilner)
“…The vulnerability in these poems is real, but so is the hope.” (Maurice Manning)
“…It is a darkly ravishing achievement.” (Lynn Emanuel)
Windfall (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) includes poems from three previous books by Maggie Anderson, along with a generous selection of new work. In this collection we can see over two decades of the growth of a poet memorable for the clarity, strength, and urgency of her voice. Anderson’s poems entangle a language, a history, and a group of belongings, and she is both at home and a foreigner in the places she invokes. Every place in these poems seems inhabitable, yet the tensions of these deceptively quiet lines develop out of the clear reluctance or inability of the poet to sit still. Maggie Anderson writes out of deep grief for the political losses of work and money, of life and limb and home in our dangerous times. She remembers and witnesses, and she also speaks eloquently for our private griefs—the loss of family, vitality and self. These poems do not shout; we listen as if following a whisper in the dark. A counterpoint to the sorrows in these poems is a complex and often joyous music, as well as a wry, sometimes self-deprecating humor which saves the work from solemnity. Her rhythms are diverse and intricate; they move deftly from fiddle whine to saxophone, from fugue to blues.
“Anderson's poems have a gentle feel but contain a deep intensity; they move slowly, quietly, and need to be absorbed over time. . . . There is an exploration here of the heart that is rare, desperately needed in today’s world, and universal to us all.” --Lambda Book Report
“Windfall possesses a huge, spellbinding, honed acuity and aesthetic certainty [and] tells an extended story without sacrificing the lyricism of good poetry. Direct and spare, this volume hits the mark.” -- Yusef Komunyakaa
A Space Filled With Moving
“Maggie Anderson is primarily a poet of moral urgency – a political poet as we say these days – but she is never shrill, relying on the tensions inherent in the natural world rather than on rhetoric.” -- The American Book Review
“I love the voice I hear in Maggie Anderson’s poems. I love the rhythm and the knowledge and the power. She has made a new world come to life. She has, through memory and passion, helped keep the world itself alive.” -- Gerald Stern
In a series of poems about several Walker Evans photographs, including one of the West Virginia graveyard in which Anderson's grandparents are buried, the poet writes: "I see/ how beautiful this is even though everyone was poor/ but in Rowlesburg nothing's changed."
The immutability of that corner of small-town America, where landscape and climate dictate the conditions of life, is Anderson's subject and the substance of her vision. There is a warm sepia tone to her poetry: this is country where the raucous vibrancy of modernity is not admitted.
Praise for Cold Comfort(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)
“I like Maggie Anderson’s strong sense of place and the unsentimental attention she pays to her West Virginia origins. These are rooted poems. Even the vegetables’ dreams rely on a vivid internal logic. As ‘corn . . . the enormous yellow dirigible of August . . . dreams fair weather’ and ‘dill . . . drifts seeds onto cucumbers it schemes to marry,’ I am beguiled.” —Maxine Kumin
“The beautiful and scruffy landscape where Maggie Anderson grew up should thank her for her fidelity to it, for she’s made from that devotion a model of love useful there or anywhere. She’s intellectually alert to the lures of comforts and wisdom and emotionally honest enough to want them all the same; she ‘holds to her task / in the face of speculation,’ as she writes of a grandmother photographed with her arms full of wash. She’s funny (‘Only responsible people keep cows’) and deadly serious. She’s one of the ways our poetry has chosen to remind us who we are, and how much choice we had in that, and how little.” —William Matthews
Years That Answer
“Maggie Anderson writes a serious, surmising poetry, a poetry knowledgeable of image and music, pearls of energy on a tight string, and shining sanity.” -- Gwendolyn Brooks