Book Smuggler Den contributor, Carol Smallwood had the chance to speak with C.B. Anderson about his new book available on Amazon. Smallwood is a literary reader, judge, and interviewer who recently published a poetry collection Patterns: Moments in Time. Let’s see what Anderson had to say about being a writer and his new book!
Smallwood: Joseph S. Salemi commented on Roots in the Sky, Boots
on the Ground: Metaphysical Poems: “On the one hand it aspires to a
high level of intellectual seriousness, but at the same time, the book
maintains an unbreakable link to our terrestrial limitations.”
Its cover and format make it a very attractive book. Many (besides
me) will recognize you from the very popular PBS television series of
over twenty years, The Victory Garden, in which you were the head
gardener. What is some of your other background?
Anderson: Well, I matriculated at Wesleyan University in Middletown CT, where I had an opportunity to study poetry under Richard Wilbur. Alas, I did not take
advantage of this, because I did not know then what I would be doing some
forty or fifty years later. For three years I lived in a mountain valley in rural
Arizona, where I worked for the local ranchers as a cowboy. I later continued
my college education at Harvard University Extension, where I finally earned
my bachelor degree c. 1988. While there, I took courses from Calvert
Watkins, the greatest American Indo-Europeanist, which still informs my
tendency to borrow from other languages in the family, which include
Sanskrit, Farsi & Tocharian A & B. I grew up in a small town in eastern
Pennsylvania when there were still many woods around to wander in.
Smallwood: How did you come upon metaphysical poetry? It makes
me think of grad classes and difficult poets to understand like John
Donne! You have a lot of courage to use it.
Anderson: I think I read my first John Donne poem for a high school English
class. Back then you could still get a decent education in a public school.
Why do you say that John Donne is difficult to understand? His language is a
bit archaic, but his themes seem fairly modern. It didn’t take courage on my
part to cozy up to him. The man was a straight shooter, as I myself would
wish to be considered.
Smallwood: What are some popular subjects of classical
metaphysical poets and how do they compare with yours?
Anderson: There is always present the contemplation of the divine and what it
might mean for those of us who live within the sphere of the created
world. And then there is erotic love, or sex, which is the eternal subject
around which the world revolves. In many respects, not much has changed in
the past four hundred years.
Smallwood: A conceit is a metaphor that compares two very dissimilar
things and metaphysical conceits are usually bold and complex.
Please give an example of a conceit in one of your poems and why
you selected it.
Anderson: Let’s take “Escrow”—the conceit, in the normal sense of the word, is
that I can address God as a peer, as an equal, in other words. This is clearly
absurd, but the Lord is merciful and metes no punishment to those who take
liberties with conventional etiquette and reverence. The reason I selected it
has to do with the fact that in the past few years a number of my oldest closest
friends have passed away.
Smallwood: Which of the 80 poems in Roots in the Sky, Boots on the
Ground: Metaphysical Poems, was the most difficult to write and why?
Anderson: The most difficult to write? Maybe “Who” owing to the fact that I don’t
write a lot of blank verse, and that I felt I was putting myself at risk for a
fatwa. But honestly, “Goats” might have been the most difficult in a technical
sense, because it’s hard to turn a rhyme every two beats.
Smallwood: Did Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder use your gardening
Anderson: Who can say? If I wrote any poems where plants are mentioned, the
answer is obvious. Incredibly, in neither of these two volumes do any of my
advertently horticultural poems appear.
Anderson: It’s not necessarily exhaustive, but it serves the purpose.
Smallwood: Around 700 of your poems have appeared internationally
in such magazines as Lucid Rhythms, The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg
Review. What are a few of the most recent ones?
Anderson: Most recently my poems have appeared in Snakeskin, Better than
Starbucks, and Expansive Poetry Online. They should be fairly easy to find if
one is willing to undertake a concerted search.
Smallwood: Are you working on another book, and do you also write
Anderson: For the most part, I write nothing but poetry, though I did publish, “How to Write an Alexandroid” at Society of Classical Poets. I sometimes wish I
were able to write good science fiction, but so far I am only proficient at
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