In my twenties I was a bonobo,
no self-awareness but man,
could I swing in trees and the
females loved it. And I could use
my tail in the most innovative ways.
Don’t look shocked: I wanted
to stay a bonobo, never evolve,
just be fuck happy swinging
limb to limb right into your heart.
Now that I’ve evolved and have
this pink skin and can recite
the classics I’m not supposed to
thump my chest or bite your butt.
Ain’t that some shit?
Come on over here, baby,
and regress a little—life is short.
—Posted to poet’s Facebook page on 12 February 2021; appears here with his
is an American poet, memoirist, and photographer who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and served as a combat medic in Vietnam. After returning home from the war, he studied acting at the University of Arizona, where he earned an M.A. degree. He later settled in Massachusetts and began writing poems in the Group 18 writing workshop founded in 1986 by Jack Gilbert, Linda Gregg, and James Finnegan. [See also Open Field: Poems from Group 18 (Open Field Press, November 2012).]
Anderson’s work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, Connecticut Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, and The Southern Review, among others, as well as in the anthology The Hundred Years’ War: Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).
His memoir Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self-Discovery was published in 2009 by W.W. Norton and Company. His most recently published book is a collection of poems, Horse Medicine (Barrow Street Press, 2015) [reviewed by poet and novelist Frank X. Gaspar and poet and critic Brad Crenshaw].
Anderson is also the author of two other poetry collections. His war poems have been called “uncompromising” and “wrenching” by fellow poets and rank among the most honest, intimate portraits of war’s complex imagery. The first collection, The Moon Reflected Fire (Alice James Books, 1994), won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and was described by Joyce Peseroff, an Advisory Editor for Ploughshares and author of four poetry books, as “not just about Vietnam but resonant with the history of warriors from the backyard to The Iliad to the Bible.” The second collection, Blues for Unemployed Secret Police (Curbstone Books, 2000), received a grant from the Eric Matthieu King Fund of the Academy of American Poets.
Anderson lives in Palmer, Massachusetts, where he is director of development for Blue Star Equiculture, a horse-rescue facility and organic farm. In addition to the war poems, his work focuses on a range of contemporary issues and concerns, as well as deeply personal material. [See also Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry.] He has written film scripts, fiction, and criticism, and his play, “Short Timers,” was produced at The Theater for the New City in 1981 (New York).
He has taught in the MFA programs at Bennington College and Pacific University of Oregon; Smith and Emerson Colleges; Eastern Connecticut State University; and the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Its Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Anderson earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Connecticut in 2006 and teaches in the department of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Awards include a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Virginia Quarterly Review, Poets & Writers, The MacDowell Colony, and other funding organizations.